Being a teenager is difficult. A teen is a no longer a child but is not yet an adult either. This in-between period is a struggle. Raging hormones and a rapidly changing body can make teenage even more difficult to deal with.
With mass media bombarding them with images of impossible beauty, many teens struggle to accept their bodies. It is easy to expect your teen to just ‘snap’ out of it, but eating disorders are not something teens can simply shrug off.
Anorexia Nervosa in teens is one of the most well-known eating disorders from around the world. Many people use the term ‘anorexic’ lightly. But anorexia is not a joke. It can destroy lives and even prove to be fatal!
What Is Anorexia In Teens?
As mentioned before, anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. Teens suffering from this disorder have a twisted sense of self-worth. Even if they are thin or of normal weight, they think they are overweight. These teens are always on the lookout for ways to lose weight. Kids suffering from anorexia tend to limit their diets. In some cases, anorexic people can even starve themselves. The resulting weight loss and malnutrition can even lead to death (1).
Anorexic teens tend to have an obsessive relationship with food. They tend to create elaborate eating rituals and can feel shy to eat in front of other people. Many anorexics also tend to over-exercise to lose weight.
[ Read: Eating Disorders In Teenagers ]
Causes Of Anorexia In Teenagers?
Finding a clear culprit for anorexia is not easy. A number of factors play a role and lead to anorexia. Here are some reasons that can cause anorexia in teens:
1. Biological Causes:
Can eating disorders like anorexia have a genetic link? Studies do indicate in that direction (2).
2. Psychological Causes:
People who are already suffering from psychological problems like anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders are more likely to suffer from anorexia (3).
3. Environmental Causes:
Modern culture today equates being thin with beauty. Pressure from peers, family, and media plays a big role in causing anorexia (4).
[ Read: Parenting Teenagers ]
Anorexia – Risk Factors:
Some teens are more likely to get anorexia compared to others. If your teenager falls in any of the following categories, the chances of anorexia will go up manifold:
Females are more likely to suffer from anorexia and seek treatment for it (5).
Anorexia seems to hit people when they are must vulnerable. About 90% of those with eating disorders like anorexia are teens and young adults between 12-25 years of age .
Teens with a certain personality type are more likely to fall prey to anorexia. If your teen is a perfectionist, looking to excel in every field, she may have that extra drive to lose weight (6).
These are just risk factors. It does not mean that people outside of these spectrum cannot get anorexia. In fact, around 10-15% of anorexic patients are males (7). But if your teen does fall into the ‘risky’ category, it makes sense to keep an eye on her.
Signs Of Anorexia In Teens:
Here are the most common signs of anorexia in teenagers. But be aware that not all anorexia cases manifest the same way.
- Obsessive relationship with food that may involve intense dieting.
- Fear of gaining weight
- Distorted body image. Feeling fat even when one is slim or even thin.
- Missed periods in females
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Hair loss
- Excessive body hair
- Excessive exercise
[ Read: Weight Loss Exercises For Teens ]
Why Is Anorexia Dangerous?
Wanting to be healthy and fit is another matter. But trying to lose weight to the point of starvation can never be a good thing. Here are some medical complications that a teen with anorexia may experience:
- Irregular heartbeat and fatal heart decompensation (8).
- Low blood pressure and fainting (9)
- Fatty liver or inflamed liver (10)
- Infertility (11)
- Osteoporosis (12)
Treatment For Anorexia In Teens:
If your teen gets a diagnosis of anorexia, it is time to get help. The treatment plan for anorexia involves a combination of medical as well as psychological rehabilitation.
Some of the tools used to treat anorexia include:
- Family and individual therapy (13)
- Medication including antidepressants and estrogen supplements (14).
- Some patients may even need hospitalization to recover
[ Read: Diet Chart For Teenage Girl ]
Can Teen Anorexia Be Prevented?
Now this is one question that is still up for debate. But what you can do is show your teen that she is perfect the way she is. A change in the mindset of society can also help bring down the cases of anorexia drastically. As a parent, you can also encourage healthy eating habits to prevent anorexia. You should also refrain from judging yourself in front of your teen. What she needs is a role model. So be that role model and help her embrace her body.
Show your teen that real beauty comes from within. Help her build inner strength. Outer beauty fades. It is the inner light that shines all through life!
Have you experienced anorexia personally? How did you deal with your teenage anorexia? Share your experience with us.