Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening conditions that can cause persistent physical and mental health problems. Teens and young adults are at the highest risk of developing eating disorders. Girls are twice as likely to develop an eating disorder as boys, and both can benefit from the help of mental health treatment services.
Understanding Eating Disorders
There are several different types of eating disorders. They all involve an extreme focus on body shape, food, weight, and exercise, which can lead to dangerous behaviors. Eating disorders usually appear during adolescence and can continue into adulthood. There are four main categories of eating disorders parents should be aware of.
Anorexia nervosa, or simply anorexia, as it is often called, involves a fear of gaining weight. People with this disorder may go to extreme measures to control their weight, including limiting their calories so much they develop severe health problems. In the most severe cases, anorexia nervosa can be fatal.
Bulimia is identified by episodes of bingeing (extreme overeating) and purging (vomiting). Both of these behaviors may be done secretly, which reinforces feelings of guilt and shame. The stomach acid produced when purging may damage the teeth and esophagus.
Binge-eating disorder is marked by a lack of control over the amounts a person is eating. They might eat large amounts quickly, eat when they’re not hungry, or even continue eating when they have become uncomfortably full.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
This eating disorder differs from others in that it is not necessarily caused by a fear of gaining weight or other body image difficulties. People with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder don’t take in enough food to be healthy because they avoid foods with certain textures, smells, tastes, or other characteristics they find unappealing.
Signs Your Child Has an Eating Disorder
All eating disorders have both psychological and physical components. Sufferers are often trapped in a cycle of guilt and shame about their body and the way it functions. The symptoms of eating orders differ depending on which disorder is involved. Some of the general warning signs to look for include:
- Adopting a new, strict diet plan
- Constant focus on weight and body size or shape
- Excessive exercise
- Isolating, withdrawing from social activities
- Worrying about being overweight
- Constant self-criticism about appearance
- Leaving meals without explanation
- Unexplained weight changes
- Use of laxatives, diet pills, or herbal weight-loss products
- Calluses or red marks on knuckles from inducing vomiting
- Eating larger portions than would be considered normal for a person that size or age
- Expressing guilt or shame about their body or eating habits
Eating disorders do not typically self-resolve. Without the intervention of a young adult eating disorder treatment, long-term health consequences, including death, may result.
How Are Eating Disorders Treated?
Eating disorders are treated from many different angles. A client’s clinical team may include a psychologist, a medical doctor, a nutritionist, and other experts. Inpatient treatment may be necessary when a person’s body weight and other metrics are unstable.
Several different psychotherapy techniques may be included in a client’s treatment plan, including:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
- Nutritional therapy
Treatment for depression or other mental health concerns that may accompany an eating disorder will be included in the overall treatment plan.
Find Young Adult Eating Disorder Treatment at Kiwi Recovery
Eating disorders are life-threatening conditions. Don’t delay finding help. An eating disorder treatment program may save your teen’s life. Call Kiwi Recovery at 617.751.6610 to learn more about enrolling your teen in one of our eating disorder programs.