Teens and Eating Disorders: Get the Facts

Teens and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are very common among teens. Statistics show that 95 percent of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25, 50 percent of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as fat, and 80 percent of 13-year-olds have attempted to lose weight. Some other startling statistics on teens and eating disorders are:

(From the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders)

•    Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness in adolescent females
•    Eating disorders in schools are almost as prevalent as alcohol and drug abuse: 9.8 percent of female students had problems with alcohol, 8 percent had problems with drugs, and 7.8 percent had problems with eating disorders
•    86 percent of people report their eating disorder started before the age of 20, 10 percent report it started at 10 years old and younger, 33 percent report it started between the ages of 11 and 15, and 43 percent report it started between the ages of 16 and 20

What causes eating disorders in teens?

There are many risk factors for teens and eating disorders, including gender, early puberty, family influences, sports, certain personalities, a history of sexual abuse, emotional disorders and dieting. As the above statistics show, many people develop eating disorders between the ages of 11 and 20 years old. This is a difficult time for many adolescents as they try to navigate puberty and their emotional and physical changes on top of the pressures they’re under from school and their peers. When you combine this with the pressure they receive from today’s media to be thin and beautiful, it’s easy to understand why teens can develop a negative self-image.

What are the signs of an eating disorder?

Many people who have eating disorders are in denial, and oftentimes their loved ones are in denial, too. Here are some common signs you should watch out for:

•    Dramatic weight loss (it’s important to note that not everyone with an eating disorder will appear gaunt or too thin, so don’t rely on this as the main symptom)
•    Refusal to eat, denying she’s hungry or making up excuses to eat
•    Frequent trips to the bathroom immediately following meals
•    Excessive exercise
•    Preoccupation with food
•    Obsessively counting calories and the fat content of food
•    Adopting rigid eating rituals, such as weighing food, chewing food a certain number of times, or spitting food out after chewing
•    Wearing baggy clothes to hide weight loss
•    Keeping a food diary
•    Mood swings
•    Depression
•    Insomnia or poor sleeping habits

What does an eating disorder do to the body?

Eating disorders are very harmful to the body and signs of this harm will eventually show. Some of the physical signs of an eating disorder are:

•    Dry skin
•    Brittle nails
•    Thinning hair that breaks or falls out
•    Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
•    Growth of fine body hair covering the entire body
•    Fatigue
•    Dizziness or fainting
•    Dehydration
•    Irregular heart rhythms
•    Low blood pressure
•    Organ damage
•    Bone loss
•    Constipation
•    Eroded tooth enamel
•    Tears in the esophagus
•    Stomach ulcers
•    Dehydration
•    Bloating
•    Fatigue
•    Irregular heartbeat
•    Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
•    Frequent sore throats and/or swollen glands
•    Bloodshot eyes or light bruising under the eyes
•    Sores or calluses on the hands’ knuckles

What should I do if I have an eating disorder or someone I know does?

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. In fact, up to 20 percent of people will die from complications or suicide if left untreated. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder it’s important to reach out for help. Eating disorder programs can help teens treat the mental and emotional issues that caused them to develop an eating disorder and treat the physical issues their disorder has created.