Anorexia, Bulimia: How to Prevent Teen Eating Disorders

Worried About Teen Eating Disorders? Find out what contributes to eating disorders in teens, the consequences of eating disorders, and the best prevention strategies.

Eating disorders can have a devastating effect on teens. To help protect your child, understand the possible causes of teen eating disorders and know how to talk to your son or daughter about healthy eating habits.

Why do teenagers develop eating disorders?

Eating disorders are serious conditions linked to persistent eating behaviors. They negatively impact health, emotions, and the ability to function in important areas of life. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating.

Although the exact cause of eating disorders is unknown, certain factors could be involved, including:

– Biology

People with first-degree relatives (siblings or parents) with an eating disorder may be more likely to develop an eating disorder, suggesting a possible genetic link.

– Psychological and emotional problems

Psychological and emotional problems, such as depression or anxiety disorders, are closely linked to eating disorders.

– Environment

Modern Western culture emphasizes thinness.

– Favourite activities

Participation in activities that promote leanness, such as ballet, or sports in which weight is partly subjective, such as skating, may play a role.

Early consequences of eating disorders in adolescents

Signs and symptoms vary depending on the type of eating disorder. Be alert to eating habits and beliefs that could signal unhealthy behavior. Here are some red flags that could indicate an eating disorder:

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– Extreme weight loss or lack of expected developmental weight gain
– Frequently skipping meals or refusing to eat
– Excessive attention to food
– Persistent worry or complaint about fat
– Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
– Using laxatives, diuretics or enemas after eating when not needed
– Force yourself to vomit or exercise too much to avoid gaining weight after a binge
– Repeated episodes of eating abnormally large amounts of food at one time
– Expressing depression, disgust or guilt about eating habits

Prevention starts with open communication

Talk to your son or daughter about their eating habits and body image. To start :

– Encourage healthy eating habits

Discuss how diet can affect your health, appearance, and energy levels. Encourage your teen to eat when he’s hungry. Eat as a family.

– Discuss media messages

TV shows, movies, and social media can send the message that only a certain body type is acceptable. Encourage your teen to question what he has seen or heard.

– Promote a healthy body image

Talk to your teen about their self-image and reassure them that healthy body shapes vary. Don’t make or allow hurtful nicknames, comments, or jokes based on a person’s physical characteristics, weight, or body shape.

– Promote self-esteem

Respect your teen’s accomplishments and support their goals. Listen when your teen speaks. Look for positive qualities in your teen, such as curiosity, generosity, and a sense of humor. Remind your teen that your love and acceptance is unconditional, not based on their weight or appearance.

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– Share the dangers of dieting and emotional eating

Explain that dieting can compromise nutrition, growth, and health, and lead to an eating disorder. Remind your teen that eating or controlling their eating is not a healthy way to deal with their emotions. Instead, encourage your teen to talk to loved ones, friends, or a counselor about issues they might be facing.

Also set a good example

If you’re constantly on a diet, using food to cope with your emotions, or talking about losing weight, you may have a hard time encouraging your teen to follow a healthy diet or feel satisfied with their appearance. Instead, make conscious choices about your lifestyle and be proud of your body.

What Help for Teen Eating Disorders

If you think your teen has an eating disorder, talk to them lovingly and without confrontation. Also plan a medical examination for your teenager. The doctor can reinforce health messages and look for unusual changes in your teen’s body mass index or weight. The doctor may also talk to your teen about their eating habits, exercise regimen, and body image. If necessary, he can refer your teenager to a psychotherapist.

EMDR therapy can offer excellent results in the treatment of eating disorders in adolescents. There is a national registry of certified EMDR therapists on to find one near you.

If your teen is diagnosed with an eating disorder, treatment may also consist of a specific type of family therapy that will help you work with your child to improve eating habits, achieve a healthy weight, and manage other symptoms. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required.

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Whatever the treatment plan, remember that early intervention can help speed recovery.


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