Warning Signs Of An Eating Disorder

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Teen Eating Disorders

It can happen overnight. One day, a seemingly normal, grounded teenager can go from happy to choosing the sorts of self-destructive behaviors that are telltale signs of an eating disorder.

Disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and overeating can have serious consequences for the health of your teen, your family, and yourself, and, if left untreated, they can even result in death. The longer your teen is allowed to continue making these sorts of choices, the harder it can be to turn them around. Learn the warning signs of an eating disorder, and know when to get help for your teen.

Suddenly Changing Eating Habits

This is one that can be easy to miss, if you’re unaccustomed to eating meals together with your teen, but it’s often the first sign of trouble. Try scheduling at least a few meals together—if you can’t do dinners on school days, then try breakfasts. Watch for:

  • Refusal of food
  • Excuses for why they’re not hungry—sick, sore throat, “I ate a big lunch,” etc.
  • Sudden loss of interest in favorite foods
  • Avoiding fatty or high-calorie foods
  • Sudden fixation on counting calories

A Big Increase in Exercise

Teens suffering from eating disorders often feel driven to change their physical appearance. In addition to losing weight by eating less, a teen may decide to embark on a harsh or extreme fitness routine.

Pay attention to how your teen approaches personal fitness. There’s nothing wrong with a trip to a gym to blow off some steam, but ensure these workouts aren’t taking the shape of self-punishment.

Psychological Warning Signs

Bear in mind that an eating disorder is usually just a symptom of a much deeper psychological problem. Teens with a dismal self-image, especially body image, may find great appeal in the idea of being skinny. They may be convinced that others will like them better if they change their appearance.

Look Out For

  • Your teen constantly comparing herself to other classmates, celebrities, or other figures.
  • Expressions of envy over “so-and-so’s flat stomach,” for example
  • An obsession with models or celebrities.
  • A tendency to self-criticize; never being satisfied with the way she looks, even when she looks good.
  • Anti-social Behavior.

Some eating disorders stem from a teen’s desire to have control over every aspect of his life. In addition to counting calories and workout reps, a teen may want to free himself from his social schedule, as well.

This has two goals: 1) others won’t be around to notice/comment on weight loss, and 2) the teen won’t feel guilty for making bad choices. He can pretend his decisions affect only himself.

Watch for These Signs

  • Sudden disinterest in friends or family members
  • Withdrawing from school activities
  • Secretive behaviors, especially around mealtimes.
  • Teens with an eating disorder will want to eat alone, and be alone after eating, as well.

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Teen Eating Disorders

  • Bad teeth
  • Wearing baggy clothes to disguise their changing body shape.
  • Purging can lead to a big increase in plaque and tarter.
  • Bloodshot eyes or light bruising around the eyes, from vomiting.

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