Perfectionism and purging are two signs of eating disorders in teenagers. Here’s how to recognize anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphic disorder – or confirm what you already suspect.
There is a huge difference between an eating disorder, which is a psychological disorder requiring diagnosis and treatment, and simply being concerned with healthy weight loss in teens, fitness, and nutritious eating. It’s almost impossible to live in North America and take weight loss and body image concerns too far, since we’re as a society obsessed with beauty and perfection!
The line between eating disorders and healthy eating can blur — which is why knowing how to recognize the signs of eating disorders is so important.
For more info about eating disorders, read Teenage Eating Disorders. And, read on for signs of eating disorders in teenagers…
Signs of Eating Disorders in Teenagers
Eating disorders aren’t about weight loss, diets, or healthy eating — they are serious psychological disorders. Bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and other eating disorders are about feeling sad and unhappy. The symptoms and treatments of an eating disorder are tied in with mental and emotional health. Often, an unhealthy body image is also an issue.
Before you can start an affective treatment plan for anorexia, bulimia, or body dysmorphic disorder, you need to recognize the signs of eating disorders.
Signs of eating disorders:
- Feelings of being fat or obese even if weight and body mass index (BMI) is normal
- Eating to avoid dealing with feelings, people, or situations
- Not eating at all, or eating less than 1,000 calories a day
- Feelings of wanting to be perfect; struggles with perfectionism
- Feelings of unworthiness or insignificance
- Preoccupation with food, calories, and eating
- Eating until painfully full, and/or purging with laxatives or vomiting
- Not recognizing the difference between physical and emotional hunger
Saying “yes” to one or two of these signs of eating disorders doesn’t necessarily mean a teen has an eating disorder, but it could indicate an unhealthy body image or low self-esteem. Teenagers who are excessively thin or overweight, who exercise all the time, or who are preoccupied with healthy foods (orthorexia nervosa) may also be struggling with an eating disorder.
If you’re a teenager with bulimia or anorexia, you may find this article helpful: Should You Tell Your Boyfriend About Your Eating Disorder?
Teen Eating Disorders Aren’t About Weight Loss
Though society and the media glamorize being thin and beautiful, eating disorders aren’t all about losing weight. Eating disorders are about unexpressed feelings of fear, anxiety, grief, inadequacy or failure. Eating disorders are efforts to take control in a chaotic life – desperate attempts to deal with difficult situations and negative feelings.
Teenage eating disorders may start as a way to take control or avoid certain emotions, and then develop into a habit that is incredibly difficult to overcome (but not impossible!).
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Another informative DVD for eating disorders is Thin, an HBO documentary film that delves into the lives of women with eating disorders. It’s an honest, realistic look at what it’s like to struggle with anorexia, bulimia, or body dysmorphic disorder.
Recognizing the signs of eating disorders is the first step to treating them. For help, read Binge Eating Treatment – How to Stop Overeating.
Are you struggling in your relationship with your teenager? Read When Your Daughter Says She Hates You – 8 Ways to Reconnect.
If you have any thoughts about teenage eating disorders, please comment below…