I have recently received a few phone calls from friends of mine about their teen daughters gaining weight while attending high school or their freshman year of college. According to their parents, this is not just a few pounds, this can range from 10-20 pounds in a short period of time. Their daughters look incredibly different. These parents are very concerned about the appropriate approach in helping their daughter’s health.

They have asked me for advice on how to gently approach the situation and my first suggestion was to take them to their primary physician or gynecologist. Often times this physician is the first step in identifying if they should be tested for pre-diabetic symptoms as well as contacting an eating disorder counselor who might help them with their emotions/feelings.

Let’s explore the statistics, the signs and the causes of eating disorders in our teens.

The statistics show that most people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. 50 percent of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 stated that they see themselves as fat. 80 percent of our 13 year olds have already attempted to lose weight.

Anorexia, according to ANAD or the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, is the third most chronic illness in female adolescence. Drug abuse and alcohol is considered extremely prevent but eating disorders follow closely behind statistically.

Anorexia Causes of Eating Disorders in Teens:

  • Gender based body image issues
  • Negative self-image
  • Early puberty
  • Sports
  • Particular personality types
  • History of sexual abuse
  • Influence of family members
  • Dieting and emotional disorders

Signs of an eating disorder:

  • Denial of being hungry
  • Visible weight loss or weight gain
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Going to the bathroom frequently after meals
  • Exercising incessantly
  • Thinking about food often
  • Counting every calorie
  • Chewing foods a certain number of times or spitting it out
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Having mood swings
  • Not sleeping well
  • Wearing clothes that may hide their figure

Physical effects of an Eating Disorder:

  • Dry skin, brittle nails, hair thinning, irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • Tiredness, feeling dizzy or fainting, being dehydrated,
  • Organ damage, irregular heart rhythms, being constipated
  • Bone deterioration, tooth enamel decay, ulcers
  • Feeling bloated, swollen glands and sore throats, bloodshot eyes
  • Sores on hands, thin layer of hair covering body

If you suspect your child may be suffering from any kind of eating disorder contact a health professional immediately. Time is of the essence when it comes to eating disorders, the longer you wait to help the worse the problem becomes. Seek counseling and therapy to help your family member in need.