While eating disorders can affect teenagers of both genders, it is typically more common among girls than boys. Clients in anorexia treatment centers may be concerned about their weight. According to one study, more than one third, or approximately 36 percent, of girls think they are overweight and 59 percent of these girls were actively trying to lose weight.
Defining Eating Disorders
When discussing the factors that can lead to eating disorders in teenagers, it is important to define what is meant by the term “eating disorder”. A broad definition of an eating disorder is a psychological condition that involves an extreme disruption in the eating behavior the teen displays. Eating disorders can be grouped into three general categories: anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa. Though all three are characterized by eating behaviors that are considered to be outside of the norm, they also have distinctions that set them apart.
- Anorexia nervosa occurs when a teen participates incertain behaviors in order to keep his or her weight below the threshold of normalcy. It is estimated at least 2.7% of adolescents have this condition.
- Binge eating disorder is when the teenager cannot control their urge to eat nor the amount of food consumed. A person who binge eats may often feel shame following an episode. This occurs not only because of the weight gain that can accompany the condition, but also because of his or her inability to control their eating.
- Bulimia nervosa is characterized by periods of binge eating which are then followed by episodes of purging. The methods used to purge can differ, but often include forced vomiting, hours of strenuous exercise and/or the use of diuretics or laxatives to force the body to expel the food that was consumed. This behavior often begins during the late teen years or during early adulthood with many individuals able to keep it a secret from family and friends for years.
Understanding Anorexia in Adolescence
Like many other psychological conditions, there is not one all-encompassing cause of a particular eating disorder. Teens in an eating disorder program will provide a wide range of reasons that lead to their behavior. For many teens who exhibit eating disorder symptoms, including anorexia in adolescence, being able to identify and verbalize these reasons is a key factor in being able to regain their healthy selves once again.
It is important to remember not all teens who have or exhibit the risk factors that may be common among those in an anorexia treatment program will actually have an eating disorder. There is no place for blame when it comes to treating a teen who is displaying behaviors associated with eating disorders. When it comes to healing, it is much more important to support the teen and provide her or him with the coping skills needed to be successful on the path to recovery.
For the best results, when a teen enters an anorexia treatment center, she needs a strong and supportive network of family and friends to help her through treatment. Having this support system can make it easier to overcome the challenges that could arise as she heals. Of course, this is not to say those teens who are without such a support system cannot be successful in their treatment. It simply means accommodations by the eating disorder program staff will need to be implemented in order to provide her with that particular support component of her anorexia treatment program.
Risk Factors That Can Lead to Eating Disorders
Below are some common risk factors that have been noted by those individuals who have an eating disorder, as well as the staff at anorexia treatment programs. Just because a teenager has one or many of these factors present in her life does not necessarily mean she will have an eating disorder; however, it could indicate she is vulnerable to developing one or more eating disorders. For those teens who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, it is more common to see a combination of factors rather than a single one.
- Low self-esteem: Teens with low self-esteem could be particularly susceptible to negative comments about her weight.
- Psychological conditions: In many cases, eating disorders co-occur with other psychological conditions such as depression, bipolar disorderand
- Family relationships: Teens who experience turmoil in their home life could find themselves with few resources to stave off an eating disorder.
- Genetics: If a teen’s parent or close family member has struggled with an eating disorder, the teen has an increased likelihood of having an eating disorder as well.
- Society: Today, more than ever before, “thinness” as well as a perfect body and face are attributes that are prized and promoted by society. Television, movies, and magazines overflow with women who are thin. This emphasis on weight can trigger a teen’s obsession with being thinner through dieting and other methods of weight loss.
- Social media: Social media is a powerful way of connecting with others from all over the world. Of course, there is a dark element to social media as well. Some teens are bullied through their social media pages for their weight which can lead to an eating disorder.
- Activities: Gymnastics, ballet, elite sports and other activities that place an emphasis on body weight can lead to a teen developing an eating disorder. For example, these disordered behaviors could arise is in response to a coach or a parent who chastises the teen for poor performance due to their “excess” weight. Another example, the teen develops an eating disorder after calculated thoughts and behaviors to alter her body in the mistaken belief it will help her performance or perhaps to look more in line with the others on the team.
Signs That Could Indicate an Eating Disorder
Just as no two girls have the same risk factors that could lead to an eating disorder, there is also a range of signs and symptoms that may indicate a teen has an eating disorder. Teen girls who display one or more of the following signs should be observed carefully; it may be beneficial to open up the lines of communication and discuss the disordered thoughts and behaviors.
- Often complains and/or worries about being fat
- Checks in the mirror often for flaws
- Focuses an excessive amount on food
- Eats more food during a snack or a meal that is considered to be normal
- Skips meals
- Expresses negative emotions, such as disgust, guilt, shame or depression, about her eating habits
- Eats in secret, eats only by herself or makes excuses for not eating
- Goes to the bathroom right after she eats or even during a meal
- Uses enemas, laxatives or diuretics after she eats
Strategies to Help Prevent Anorexia in Adolescence
A proper eating disorder program should offer a specialized and tailored treatment plan designed specifically for that particular teen and comprising of medical, psychiatric and clinical support.
- Encourage healthy eating: Teens need to know how their nutritional intake affects their physical and mental health.
- Embrace a self-accepting body image: Explore the underlying causes and thoughts of the negative body image and support the individual in strengthening a more positive body image. Ban hurtful jokes or nicknames that are derived from the person’s physical characteristics including weight.
- Be media savvy: The media messages that teens see today often depict a particular body type as being the only one that is acceptable. Be aware of those websites and other places that pose anorexia in adolescents as being a lifestyle choice instead of what it really is: an eating disorder.
- Support her self-esteem: Listen to teens when they talk and celebrate their accomplishments. This includes those that go beyond the way she looks. Look for, and comment upon, those positive qualities in the teen that are not physical. Is she considerate? Smart? Cheerful? Curious?
- Talk about emotional eating: Many people manipulate food for a variety of reasons. Some people use food as a way to cheer themselves up, while others may use it to stave off boredom or loneliness, still others may avoid food altogether as a means of control. Instead of forming an emotional attachment to food, itis important teens are able to speak to a trusted individual about their problems.
- Warn about the dangers of dieting: Dieting as a teen puts them at risk for compromises in their growth, nutrition and general health. The teen years are a time of great brain and physical growth. Teens who donot receive enough nutrients could face developmental issues in the future.
If you are concerned about your teen and her eating behaviors, Clementine is here for you and for her. Clementine features a compassionate and talented staff, luxurious accommodations, medical treatment, if needed and post-treatment options. When searching for “anorexia treatment centers near me”, you will find that Clementine is a nationwide industry leader that focuses exclusively on the needs of girls and adult females. Contact us today to learn how we can work together to treat your teen’s eating disorder.