Health Hunch All you need to know to stay healthy

February 28, 2009

Teenage eating disorders- as a parent what you need to know

Filed under: EATING DISORDERS — admin @ 2:41 pm

Eventhough  a lot of resources and information about eating disorders are available to teens, teachers and parents, this is still a critical issue that affects many  teens all over the globe, mainly the American teens.  Eating disorders usually develop between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, but children as young as eight years have developed it. Eating disorders are characterized by extremes in eating behaviors like someone takes a lot of food while another just avoids it,sometimes even upto starvation.                        Why does an individual develop eating disorder???. The reason for this is not clear, but, there are some Risk Factors which increase one’s chances of developing an eating disorder:                                                                                                          First of all, adolescence itself is a risk factor because of the significant changes that take place in one’s body during this time. It is very normal for  adolescent girls to gain body fat during puberty as a result they feel that they do not fit into the frame what a teenage girl is supposed to look like according to the media.

Secondly, teens also face a lot of emotional stress related to school pressure, peer pressure and a general sense of feeling very uncertain and out of control with all the changes they are experiencing. These individuals  will at times work to control their food ,that according to them help them feel in control.

The third risk factor, is an individual having puberty at a younger than average age. For them, the changes in their bodies can be even scarier because they are not seeing others change in the same way. They may limit their food intake to a very great extent in an effort to prevent their bodies from growing more.

The fourth one-   Many teenagers,particularly those involved in athletics, dancing, etc. have a greater chance of having the disorder, because they are often of the idea that the changes in their bodies will hamper their overall performance.

Fifth–Eating disorders can also develop in teens who belong to home where there is abuse, substance abuse or poor communication. Very often these teens will limit their food intake as a way of feeling more in control or they will turn to food for comfort which may result in binge eating.

Next to be at risk of developing eating disorders are the  teens living in homes where there is excessive pressure to succeed . It is completely acceptable for parents to push their children to work hard and have goals, however, whenever the push on the children by the parents is excessive and extreme, in can make the teen to feel out of control and  which results in their trying to gain some control through food.

Although ,whatever I have mentioned above  is not exhaustive still it does outline some of the risk factors which may make a teen more likely to develop an eating disorder.

Two eating disorders called  Anorexia Nervosa (“Anorexia”) and Bulimia Nervosa (“Bulimia”) are the most common. I am going to mention below some common characteristics of each:                                                                                Anorexia Nervosa: is characterized by individuals who are stuck up with the idea of  being thin. the individuals with this disorder have an extreme fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. This means that, however thin they may be, they still view their body as being too big. Individuals with Anorexia have a very thin appearance. Restricting food, fasting, obsessively counting calories, exercising excessively, using diet pills or laxatives or vomiting after eating are some of the behaviors which may be commonly seen in these kind of individuals. Individuals with Anorexia do not eat enough to allow their body to function properly.

What are the health risks associated with Anorexianervosa?                                         A lot of  health risks are associated with not feeding the body enough food. These include:  Lowered blood pressure and pulse , brittle hair and nails ,lightheadedness or fainting ,swollen joints ,low temperature,loss of hair on the head ,depression ,lanugo (the growth of soft furry hair on the face, back and arms),  slow or stunted growth ,menstrual irregularities.                            Bulimia Nervosa: is characterized by individuals binge eating (eating a lot of food even when not hungry) and then purging or engaging in excessive exercise following binge eating. Individuals with Bulimia have a distorted body image and may actually appear to be of a healthy weight or even slightly overweight. To be diagnosed with this eating disorder,the individual must be binging and purging regularly. Many a  times these individuals will eat secretly as they are ashamed of their inability to control the amount they are eating.

What can be the health risks associated with Bulimia Nervosa?                                      There are many health risks associated with eating excessively and then purging. Some of these include:  1)Stomach pain  2)Permanent damage to the stomach and kidneys 3) Irregular menstrual cycles  4)Dehydration  5)Swollen face  6)Sore Throat  7)Dry, flaky skin  8) Electrolyte imbalance-Low potassium levels  9)Cardiac arrhythmias  10)Tooth decay  11)If gaining too much weight could develop diabetes or heart disease.

How can eating disorders be treated?                                                                                                As the health risks are great therefore professional help is necessary in case you believe your teen has an eating disorder. Successful treatment usually involves a coordination of work between a medical doctor, a therapist and a dietitian or nutritionist  to address the eating disorder. If a teen has anorexia, the initial step will be to work with them to get them back to a healthy weight where they are medically stable and safe.

The doctor should check height, weight and may also run an ECG or check the body’s chemicals to make sure they are at health levels. The me doctor will work together with a nutritionist to discuss healthy eating, vitamin supplements if needed and to make sure healthy eating becomes part of someone’s lifestyle. Psychotherapy is an extremely important component in the treatment of eating disorders because the emotional component to the issue related to self esteem and body image  needs to be addressed. Besides that, there may be an associated mental health issue which can be assessed by a trained therapist. Family therapy  along with individual therapy  can help family members better understand the issue and ways in which they can help support the treatment process.

The treatment of eating disorders may be a slow process but  important to both the physical and emotional well being of an individual.  You should first seek medical attention as soon as possible, if you believe that your teen has eating disorder. There are many expert therapists who specialize in working with teens and in working with eating disorders who can be located through physicians or by researching them on the internet. You and your teen have a right to as questions to your treatment providers to make sure you find individuals who you feel are a good fit for you which will increase the success of the treatment process. You will be working closely with your child’s treatment team but should also make sure you have your own support network during this challenging time which may include close friends or family, a therapist, a coach or a group where you can take time to just focus on yourself. It is also critical for your child’s treatment that you stay healthy, both physically and emotionally.

Hope this amount of information helps.

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