Kids

Types of eating disorders your teen can suffer from

Most teens are under pressure to look slim as a result of peer pressure. For many teenage girls, the constant exposure to narrow and unrealistic images and definitions of beauty and physical perfection in movies and magazines, on TV and in advertising, can be a trigger for eating disorders. What’s eating you? Eating disorders are …

Most teens are under pressure to look slim as a result of peer pressure. For many teenage girls, the constant exposure to narrow and unrealistic images and definitions of beauty and physical perfection in movies and magazines, on TV and in advertising, can be a trigger for eating disorders.

What’s eating you?

Eating disorders are real, medical illnesses that cause serious disturbances to the eating habits and diets of those afflicted, for instance by leading them to eat far too much or far too little on a regular basis. These conditions often start gradually but then tend to quickly spiral out of control as the affected person takes their behaviour to more and more extreme levels.  

Linked to a more serious problem

Scientists believe that in most instances, eating disorders are the result of complicated interactions between psychological, social, genetic and biological factors. They often run in families and are more common among people with mental health problems like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, low self-esteem and anxiety, as well as among those who have suffered a history of abuse or being teased about their body and weight.

Types of eating disorders

Such illnesses now affect the lives of millions of people of all classes, sexes and colours around the globe. The most common among them are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and so-called ‘other specified feeding or eating disorders’ (OSFED)

Anorexia nervosa

People who suffer from this condition tend to be obsessed with their weight, typically eating only very small amounts of a limited variety of foods and weighing themselves frequently (several times a day). Some may embark on extreme diets and exercise regiments after episodes of binge eating. Using enemas, diuretic medications and laxatives as well as making themselves vomit after eating are also common behaviours. Anorexic people often have a distorted body image, believing that they are fat when they are, in fact, extremely thin. They also tend to have an intense fear of gaining weight.

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimic individuals have frequent and repeated episodes of eating abnormally large amounts of food, followed quickly by actions to counter their overeating, for example by taking lots of laxatives or diuretics, forcing themselves to vomit, fasting and exercising intensely. All of this commonly happens in secret, with binging and purging cycles occurring anywhere from several times per week to several times in a single day.

Binge eating disorder

People with this condition lose control over their food consumption and engage in frequent sessions of overeating. Unlike bulimics, they do not, however, follow this with enforced vomiting, fasting or exercising, and for that reason they are often overweight or obese, which makes them vulnerable to high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.

Other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED)

In some cases, people, especially tweens and teens, are identified as displaying some, but not all, of the common symptoms of eating disorders like bulimia, binge eating or anorexia. They are then frequently diagnosed as suffering from OSFED.

Warning signs

There are many potential warning signs, but they may occur in a variety of different combinations and can be difficult to recognise. Among the more common symptoms are:

  • constant, repeated and extreme dieting and exercising;
  • drastic changes in eating habits and food preferences, as well as frequently avoiding meals and making excuses for not eating;
  • a distorted body image and an obsession with body shape and weight along with an intense fear of gaining weight;
  • evidence of repeated binge eating, forced vomiting and laxative abuse (e.g. frequent visits to the bathroom during or just after meals);
  • social withdrawal, moodiness, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem;
  • sudden weight loss or rapid fluctuations in weight;
  • major changes in menstruation; and
  • regular complaints about feeling tired and cold.

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