Pediatric Childcare & Wellness
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Eating Disorders and Teens
Weight obsession affects millions of teenagers today, especially girls. This obsession can lead to eating disorders. Eating disorders are more than just going on a diet to lose weight or trying to exercise every day. They're extremes in eating behavior — the diet that never ends and gradually gets more restrictive. Or the person who can't go out with friends because he or she thinks it's more important to go running to work off a snack eaten earlier.
Eating disorders are so common in America that 1 or 2 out of every 100 students will struggle with one. Each year, thousands of teens develop eating disorders, or problems with weight, eating, or body image. The most common eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia. But other food-related disorders, like binge eating, body image disorders, and food phobias, are becoming more and more common.
Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are psychological disorders that involve extreme disturbances in eating behavior. A teen with anorexia refuses to maintain a normal body weight. Someone with bulimia has repeated episodes of binge eating followed by compulsive behaviors such as vomiting or the use of laxatives to remove the food.
Symptoms of eating disorders may include the following:
A distorted body image (the teen is thin, but thinks they still need to lose weight)
Dramatic weight loss/intense fear of weight gain
Skipping most meals or unusual eating habits
Skin rash or dry skin/loss of hair or nail quality
Dental cavities/erosion of tooth enamel
Slow heart rate/low blood pressure/low body temp
Hyperactivity and high interest in exercise
Withdrawal from friends & activities
Growth of lanugo (soft furry hair on face, back & arms)
Amenorrhea (menstrual period stops)
Teens with eating disorders are often in denial that anything is wrong. They may be moody, anxious, depressed. They may withdraw from friends, and become overly sensitive to criticism. The problem arises when parents are not aware of these symptoms because the teen keeps them hidden -- just like the trauma, insecurities, depression, or low self-esteem that may help trigger the disorder.
For more information, visit www.kidsgrowth.org