Teens and Eating Disorders

2009-01-27

Many parents may ask themselves the question "What causes eating disorders?" Although there are many possible explanations to this question youngwomenshealth.org provides a few possible answers to this question. They state on their website There are many different theories regarding the causes of eating disorders. Eating disorders are likely caused by a combination of social, psychological, family, genetic, and environmental factors.

Societyâs intense focus on thinness and appearance influences how young women view their bodies and their self-esteem. While this focus may not cause eating disorders, it can contribute to their development.

An individual may have a family history of emotional disorders such as depression or anxiety. Eating disorders are often associated with feelings of helplessness, sadness, anxiety, and the need to be perfect. This can cause a person to use dieting or weight loss to provide a sense of control.

Teens who participate in competitive sports that emphasize thinness or artistic activities, such as ballet, running, gymnastics, or skating, are more likely to develop an eating disorder.

Family stress of any kind can also contribute to the development of these illnesses. Dealing with difficult transitions, loss, or teasing about weight from friends or family may trigger eating disorders.

Three types of eating disorders exist among teens. They are as follows:

Anorexia Nervosa - According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), anorexia most often occurs in pre- or post-pubescent girls and young women, though the disease can affect boys and men, too. Marked by an unwillingness to maintain a healthy body weight, anorexia presents with the following symptoms:

A distorted body image (for example, a virtually skeletal sufferer who still sees herself as "fat").

An intense fear of gaining weight.

A pattern of highly restricted eating or self-starvation.

Bulimia Nervosa - The National Institute of Mental Health describes bulimia as "recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food ... followed by a type of behavior that compensates for the binge." Bulimic individuals will often gorge on food, then either purge (by forcing themselves to vomit or taking large amounts of laxatives) or exercise past the point of exhaustion.

Binge/Emotional Eating - Similar to bulimia, but without the resultant purging, emotional eating is marked by feelings that one has no control over one's eating habits. The behavior is often "triggered" by stresses such as conflicts with family members, failures at school, or other events that prompt feelings of worthlessness. While individuals who suffer from anorexia or bulimia will lose unhealthy amounts of weight, emotional eaters tend to become overweight or obese.

Linda from TroubledWith states: Of the teenagers struggling with weight and appearance, a mounting number will cross the line and develop a clinical eating disorder. Millions of Americans now suffer from two common disorders. Anorexia nervosa (intentional self-starvation) affects about one percent of teens. And about four percent of female college freshmen have bulimia nervosa, a destructive habit of binge eating and then purging through induced vomiting or laxatives. Essentially, sufferers of eating disorders are psychologically addicted to weight control. The effects of anorexia and bulimia range from hair loss, to the cessation of menstruation, to a weakening of the heart muscle. Anorexia currently has the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder.


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