Eating disorders are widely common in teens, though people of all age groups are affected. Statistics are disturbing on teen eating disorders, claiming that 40% of teenage girls have some kind of eating disorders. Such problems are not limited to women alone; males too are reporting an increasing incidence of eating disorders. Such disturbed food patterns can take a devastating toll on your teen. So how can you help your child overcome teen eating disorder?
Adolescent Eating Disorder: Facts
There is a high incidence of eating disorder among teens.
- 95% are between 12 and 25 years of age
- 91% of female adolescents try to control weight through dieting, with 44% being high school students
- 15% of high school male students have attempted to lose weight
- 40-60% of girls aged 6-12 years are concerned about becoming overweight
Data also reveals that normal dieting habits gradually progress to pathological dieting in about 35% teens, with half of teen girls and one-third of adolescent boys using unhealthy weight control tactics.
Causes of Teen Eating Disorder
What troubles teens the most is becoming overweight. Thus they tend to fall into the trap of dieting. Purposeful weight loss gradually takes the form of poor eating habits.
Eating disorder may result from behavioral, biological, and social factors. This may include genetics, peer pressure, unpleasant experiences, teasing, and family members with eating disorder. Pre-adolescence and adolescence are challenging years for children. These are even more challenging for those with teen eating disorder.
Societal/Peer Pressure: A Common Cause of Teen Eating Disorder
Peer pressure makes children try out things that they wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. Teenage girls always find themselves under pressure to get that perfect look. Rarely does a teenage girl not fall into the trap of her own perception regarding her looks, especially when everybody around applauds size zero figures of models. This triggers a cycle of dieting, unhealthy eating habits, and weight loss in order to maintain a perfect body image and weight.
Since the popular culture places a premium on being thin, teens can easily fall into the trap of their distorted self-perception that they’re fat. As a result, they start obsessing about weight loss and dieting to achieve that perfect look.
Even our cultural norms seem to value people based on their physical appearance while ignoring their inner qualities.
The onset of teen eating disorder in most adolescents takes its roots in bullies, comments or being teased by peers about their appearance. Our present culture glorifies thinness, so much so that obesity is increasingly being seen as a “curse” among the young generation. Then starts a cycle of bullies and fat talks among peers. Anybody with less than a perfect body figure is bullied and mocked at.
Since most teens are insensitive, such instances make them feel ashamed of themselves because of their weight or size. They easily fall into the habit of crash dieting for weight loss. Research reveals that peer culture is the leading cause of development of eating disorder or anorexia among teenage girls.
Eating disorders run in families. As a result, such disorders in teens may be triggered by their genetics or biological factors. If one of the parents or a close family member suffers from the disorder, children may, too, develop eating disorders.
In some teens with eating disorders, there is an imbalance in some of the brain chemicals that control appetite and digestion.
Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, stress, and feelings of inadequacy may also contribute to teen eating disorders. If a child suffers from mental triggers, he is more likely to ignore food and fall into the trap of unhealthy eating habits.
How To Overcome Teen Eating Disorder
Parental Intervention is critically important to breaking the cycle of poor eating habits in teen children. Timely steps can help parents nip the problem of eating disorders in the bud and encourage their teenage kids to follow a lifestyle and maintain a healthy body mass index. Parents can help clear their adolescent kids’ minds about their wrong perception regarding their body image.
As a parent, it is important to keep an eye out for drastic changes in your kid’s eating habits. Change the focus to your teen’s talents instead of her looks. Avoid making any negative comments about her physical appearance.
Parental talk can go a long way in guiding teen children through their challenging teenage journey, where they are vulnerable to societal pressures.
Talk to your teens about the need for healthy eating and prevent them from developing eating disorders. When you practice what you preach, kids are more likely to follow suit. So it all begins at home.
Some teenagers may suffer from trauma or obsessive-compulsive disorder. They may engage in self-destructive behavior and may entertain suicidal thoughts. If your teen shows any such signs of self-harming behavior, timely intervention can prove to be a lifesaver.
Remember, the longer a teen eating disorder goes untreated, the more chronic it will become. Additionally, it will be difficult for teens to overcome such a disorder.
Comprehensive treatment for teen eating disorders requires a team approach, which focuses on family therapy, individual therapy, medical intervention, nutrition, and medication. A combination of all these treatment options can help you improve your child’s life.