We know what you’re thinking. “Not my kid. My kid doesn’t have an eating disorder.” And, while that may be the case, did you know that out every 100 teens in the U.S., one or two do have an eating disorder? Don’t be fooled, either. The signs of an eating disorder aren’t as apparent as you might think. Here is some information about eating disorders and signs you should keep in mind as you help your child navigate those unpredictable teen years. The earlier you can spot a disorder—and the earlier you get your child the help he or she needs—the healthier your child will be in the long term.
Types of Eating Disorders
- Anorexia. Individuals with this disorder refuse to consume a healthy number of calories because they are unreasonably fearful of becoming fat.
- Bulimia. This condition includes regular and excessive binge eating, followed by vomiting or the use of laxatives to stop any possibility of weight gain.
- Binge eating. Those who binge eat will consume excessive amounts of food on a regular basis but not purge via vomiting or laxative use.
What to Look For
Eating disorders can lead to very serious health problems for teens. Since many have a distorted body image, it is extraordinarily difficult to convince a teen with this condition that he or she must gain or maintain a normal weight. An eating issue is a psychological disorder that dangerously affects a teen’s health and well-being. Here are some symptoms to look for:
- Excessive eating and then leaving the table suddenly
- Eating at strange hours, eating in private or hiding food
- Playing with food or losing interest in eating, saying he or she has already eaten
- A constant and unusual focus on dieting, calorie intake and body image
- Extreme weight loss
- Wearing clothes to conceal weight losses or gains
- Compulsive exercising, choosing to exercise over seeing friends or being social
- Missing periods regularly
- Dental issues that result from excessive vomiting
- Spending frequent and extended periods of time in the bathroom
How to Help
If you notice that your child may have any of these symptoms, get help. Your child may require psychological counseling and outpatient care. More serious cases will require hospital-based care or residential care in a facility that specializes in eating disorder treatment. Please call the National Eating Disorders hotline for more information at 1-800-931-2237.
The medical staff at North Hills Hospital is here to help answer any questions about eating disorders and can offer a physician referral assistance. Please call (817) 255-1000 or visit our website.