Have you ever went out to eat with your friends and noticed that one of them isn’t eating? You probably thought nothing of it. However, these types of actions can lead to a much bigger issue, an eating disorder. Eating disorders in children and teens can cause serious changes in eating habits that can lead to major, even life threatening health problems. There are three major types of eating disorders. They include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, all of which are very common in the United States. In fact, according to kidshealth.org, two out of every one hundred teenagers will struggle with one in their lifetime. Experts say that females are more vulnerable to develop an eating disorder, most commonly anorexia or bulimia. 85% to 95% of those diagnosed with either of the two are female, while 35% of binge eaters are male. Eating disorders tend to develop during adolescent years or early adulthood for a variety of reasons. While doctors cannot pin point the exact cause, they hypothesize that it has something to do with the pressure teenagers are under to fit a certain “mold”. They also tested for a correlation between disorders and other health problems. There results showed that those who struggle with an eating disorder also seem to struggle with distress, fear of becoming overweight, fear of helplessness, and a low self-esteem.
Those at children.webmd.com say that harmful eating habits are formed to cope with those issues. In most cases, harmful eating habits can also lead to anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse. Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, with statistics coming in at 4% for anorexia, 3.9% for bulimia, and 5.2% for binge eating. Knowing the signs of these types of disorders can help prevent them from continuing to occur and can stop them from developing into even more problems. Anorexia (anorexia nervosa) is the mental state where one is terrified of weight gain. Many teens with anorexia restrict their food intake by dieting, fasting, or excessive exercise. Even when they do eat, it becomes an obsession; they cannot stop thinking about it. A Huntingtown High School student who has struggled with this type of disorder, but overcame it says, “I couldn’t do anything without thinking about what I ate. How much I ate, the calories, the fat, the sugar. Many people told me to just get over it and eat, but that’s not how it works. Eating disorders are very serious and cannot just be pushed aside.” The next two, Bulimia (bulimia nervosa) and binge eating are similar in a way. They both include eating massive amounts of food in shame, often hidden from other people. However, in the case of bulimia, the person suffering purges and vomits up the food they had just ate while those binge eating do not and tend to become over weight.
When looking for the signs of all three, it is important to consider the following. If someone is anorexic or bulimic, they tend to look emaciated, and have trouble speaking about their weight. They also may tend to wear baggy clothing to hide their rapid, unhealthy weight loss. In cases of binge eating, it is hard to identify the exact signs, but if you are worried about yourself or a friend, it is always crucial to tell an adult, so the proper treatment can be provided. Treatment includes seeing a doctor, therapist, and/or a nutritionist. Awareness is the key to prevention. Hope L. of HHS states, “As a teen, I always hear about the effects of eating disorders, and how harmful they are to an individual. However, I was never told how to identify the signs. If one of my friends was struggling, I know I would want to help.”