Teens and Eating Disorders: Get the Facts

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.


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7 Responses to “Teens and Eating Disorders: Get the Facts”

  1. Jennifer mercado

    This was vert helpful to me to know that i am not alone. i just turned 13 years old. I have had a problem with making my self throw up after i eat. I felt so alone, scared. I also have developed a very bad drug addiction. I have also had self harming problems. I have been placed in the sandusky county Jdc beacause of my drug addiction. my foster parents always where there for me, but there is just so much going on

  2. Allie

    This article has scared me, I have been eating less. I don’t think I have an eating disorder, but some of the side effects listed above I have been noticing. I have lost some weight but honesty doesn’t everyone loose their baby fat sometime or other? The only reason I have looked up eating disorders and have come a crossed this article is because of a school project. I am 14 years old.

  3. Jessie

    This article is very useful. I personally don’t have an eating disorder, but a friend of mine did. She had bulimia, and therefore was fainting a lot and had heart problems; she didn’t tell anyone until afterwards, but when she told me, I was very scared for her. She didn’t eat properly… And sometimes I felt I needed to loose weight as well. I am 13 years old.

  4. Jacob

    7.8 percent is still CRAZY bad, but if you look at the percents for drug & alchohol… their still a bit worse. eating disorders may be horrid, but you always want to save the most people possible, & it seems as if, at the moment, we should tackle the other issues. I am 14.

  5. A.Nerara

    I am 13 and i have only recently been diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and I wish my family had seen this before it was too late.
    We need to get this message out there because it was too late to stop the behavior that lead to Anorexia for me.
    We need to make more people feel beautiful because i wouldn’t wish my condition on any one else.
    I think schools should have inter-school education on mental disorders because it was too late for me and my case is medically untreatable because of my other disorders.
    We need help<3 this would be very helpful for educating the non- affected. they don't get it . My friend didn't know i had Anorexia and she said that Anorexics were selfish and stupid because she doesn't know about it and my friends used to kid about me being Anorexia before i was diagnosed.
    We need people educated to stop this problem. Stay strong fellow sufferers. Please xx