An eating disorder is a major health crisis, and there's been an effort in recent years to promote awareness of at least some eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia. As a parent, it's easy to think that you know enough, and that you'd certainly be aware of it if your teenager had an eating disorder – you would think a thing like that would be hard to miss. However, it's often not so simple. Take a look at what you need to know about spotting the signs of an eating disorder in your teen.
Hiding is Part of the Disorder
The tricky thing about eating disorders is that the person suffering from the disorder often feels compelled to hide it, and will go to great lengths to do so. A teen with an eating disorder won't ask for help, directly or indirectly, the way they might if they were suffering from depression or anxiety. Instead, in their mind, the disordered eating is the correct thing to do, and if they have to hide their eating habits to continue the disordered eating, they will do whatever it takes to hide them.
So it's important for parents to be on the lookout for secrecy or evasiveness where food is concerned. If your teen always has an excuse not to eat with the family, for example, it could mean that they don't want you to see them eat – or not eat, as the case may be. If you find food stashed in your child's room or other odd places, they could be hiding it to binge on when they're alone.
Is It Picky Eating or Something More?
Usually, by the time a child reaches their teens, they've passed the stage of being especially picky about their food. Some children who are picky eaters remain picky throughout their teen (and even adult) years, but it's unusual for someone to become picky for the first time, or the first time in a long time, in their teen years. If your teen suddenly seems to dislike foods that they used to like, that could be a sign that they're in trouble.
When to Worry About a Diet
Of course, teens tend to be a body-conscious group, and it's not unusual for a teenager to attempt a diet of some kind. This is often expected from teenage girls, but teen boys may also feel pressure to slim down or bulk up, and may try to change their diet accordingly. So, when is a diet normal teenager stuff, and when is it something to worry about?
If you notice that your teen is obsessively counting calories or fat grams or is regularly weighing food before eating it, you should pay attention. While a teen who's trying to stick to a diet doesn't necessarily have an eating disorder, serious dieting is a sign that your teen is anxious about their body, and that could lead to unhealthy patterns that could develop into an eating disorder. If your teen is convinced that they need to change their diet to lose or gain weight, you should insist that they visit their doctor for a physical and help creating a healthy diet and exercise plan. Ideally, it's always a good idea for anyone to see a doctor before starting a new diet. Insisting that your teen do so can help them avoid unhealthy eating habits that can spiral out of control.
As is the case with many disorders, the earlier an eating disorder is detected and treatment is started, the better the chances for a recovery. If you suspect that your teen has an eating disorder, don't wait to make an appointment with a counselor who specializes in eating disorders, like one from the Center for Change Eating Disorder Treatments.
My name is Shawna Banks and this is a blog that focuses on health issues that affect women. I became interested in women's health when my sister began having medical problems. After her condition worsened, she went to see a doctor. After her diagnosis and successful treatment, I helped her research the different kinds of health conditions that are common in women. By becoming knowledgeable about these types of problems, we can keep ourselves healthier. I hope that when you read this blog, it will help you to identify symptoms that shouldn't be ignored. If necessary, you can schedule an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.