Eating Disorder Warning Signs in Adolescents
30 million. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), that’s how many people – of all ages, genders and ethnicities – suffer from an eating disorder in the United States alone. While this figure is already alarming enough, the ANAD also reports that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Does your child have an eating disorder? In this post, we’ll explore common eating disorder warning signs in teens.
How to Tell if Your Child Has an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders in children are often accompanied by a wide variety of physical, behavioral and psychological warning signs. However, it’s important to understand that the presence of these symptoms in your child does not necessarily indicate an eating disorder. That said, here’s an overview of common eating disorder signs and symptoms organized by category.
Physical Eating Disorder Warning Signs
- Fainting, lightheadedness or dizziness that can’t be attributed to a known health problem or medication
- Sudden, dramatic weight-loss or constant changes in weight
- Unusual or chronic fatigue that hinders even the most basic activities
- Physical signs of self-induced vomiting, including calloused knuckles and tooth damage
Behavioral Eating Disorder Warning Signs
- Avoidance of food, frequent absence during meal time or strange excuses not to eat
- Fixation on dieting, calorie-counting or excessive exercising
- Sudden interest in meal planning, food preparation or new rituals surrounding eating
- Signs of self-induced vomiting like bathroom trips after (or during) meals
- Disappearance of large amounts of food from the fridge, pantry or cupboards
- Extreme interest in body shape/size, diet & exercise tips or viewing images of thin people
- Keeping secrets or not providing much detail about eating habits
Psychological Eating Disorder Warning Signs
- Distorted body image – claiming to be overweight when actually at a healthy weight or even underweight
- Depression and anxiety, especially around eating
- Wild fluctuations in mood or temperament
- Low self-esteem that is out of character for your child
Taken individually, observations like these may not be cause for alarm. On the other hand, if you see a combination of behavioral, physical and psychological eating disorder warning signs – exhibited consistently over time – it could be time to approach your child.
What to do if You Suspect Your Child has an Eating Disorder
A good first step is to educate yourself about the three main types of eating disorders.
If you still believe your child could have an eating disorder, it might be time for an honest conversation with your son or daughter. We understand this is probably easier said than done, so stay tuned for more information on the best way to approach this difficult conversation.
Innovative Treatment for Teens with Eating Disorders
Adolescent Growth is a family owned and operated treatment center for teens aged 12-17. We offer three levels of care to address your child’s unique needs, including underlying mental problems or a co-occurring addiction to drugs or alcohol. Learn more about how we can help, or contact us today.