Teen Eating Disorders

Teen Eating Disorders & Substance Abuse

Teen Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia very often begin in adolescence, but they are also very often a teen’s biggest secret.

Many teens will go to great lengths to hide their disordered eating, so parents may not realize that there is a problem until after it has taken hold.

When confronted, teens may well deny that they need help but this does not mean that parents should take these statements at face value.

Any parent concerned about teens and eating disorders should learn the warning signs and how to find help if needed.

Teen Eating Disorders And Substance Abuse

Getting your teen help for substance abuse sooner, rather than later, may save them from eating disorders and related problems.

Parents of teens misusing drugs or alcohol often find themselves tempted to think that their child is just experimenting or going through a passing phase, but the stark reality is that most teens lack the emotional and life skills necessary to recognize the serious dangers of their behavior.

Even more concerning, research from the National Center On Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) reveals that out of every ten teens dealing with substance abuse issues, three or four of them will also develop an eating disorder.

That means teens with eating disorders are five times more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs (ranging from caffeine and smoking to life-threatening street drugs), while teens abusing alcohol or illicit drugs are, in turn, eleven times likelier to have an eating disorder. In other words, anorexia and bulimia are emphatically linked together with smoking, drug and alcohol abuse.

It’s Not Just A “Girl Problem”

Before you assume that teen girls are the only ones at risk for eating and other body-image disorders, however, consider the fact that a nationwide survey reveals body image is a major source of concern these days for both boys and girls.

And teens of either sex struggling with body image are even more likely to resort to hormones and dietary supplements to lose weight or enhance their physique.

Teen Eating Disorders And Substance Abuse Share Many Similar Characteristics

Eating disorders and substance abuse problems…

  • Usually occur during times of stress or emotional transition
  • Can stem from a family history or genetic predisposition
  • Can be the result of low self-esteem, poor body image, anxiety or depression
  • Can be triggered by emotional or physical abuse
  • Can occur or escalate when parents fail to pay close attention to their child’s activities
  • Cause secretive, obsessive and compulsive behaviors
  • Have clear connections to other serious conditions and effects, including suicide
  • Are notoriously hard to treat – sufferers can relapse easily
  • Can be fatal
  • May require immediate professional help

Though disordered eating may manifest itself in any combination of warning signs, there are some typical clues to eating disorders.

Signs And Symptoms

  • Critical views of one’s body
  • Excessive concern about weight and appearance
  • Excessive concern about calories and fat content in all foods
  • Dramatic weight loss in a short period of time
  • A habit of wearing loose or baggy clothing to hide the body
  • Constant discussions about food and/or weight
  • Lying about food and eating
  • Inability to eat in front of others
  • Refusal to eat certain foods or food groups
  • Refusal to eat at all
  • Food rituals such as cutting food into small pieces, pushing food around the plate
  • Using the bathroom immediately after eating and possibly flushing more than once, scarring
    on the knuckles, broken blood vessels in the eyes, sore throats and dental problems
    (All due to vomiting)
  • Eating an excessive amount in one sitting
  • Taking diet pills, water pills or laxatives in an attempt to lose or keep off weight
  • Excessive exercising
  • Weight loss to the point that menstrual periods cease
  • Insomnia
  • Interest in web sites glamorizing or “helping” eating disorders
  • Interest in books or magazine articles about eating disorders
  • Loss of interest in social and/or romantic situations
  • Mood swings – headaches – weakness and fatigue
  • Drinking excessive amounts of water
  • Constantly chewing gum or eating sugar free sweets
  • Hiding food
  • Consistently feeling cold
  • Hair loss – dry or grey complexion

If you know a teen that displays any or a combination of the above warning signs, then finding help is essential.

Unfortunately, teen eating disorders have become fairly common in today’s teens. Statistics have indicated that one in four teen girls has an eating disorder, and even more diet on a regular basis.


The importance of food and eating is a subject of many scientists today, who are trying to find a “cure” for obesity.

Weight can reflect one’s physical and emotional state. Being overweight or obese impacts a person’s social, emotional and physical life.

There are some prejudges about overweight people – they are lazy and irresponsible. It’s especially hard to have a few pounds extra when you are a teenager. Other kids can be very cruel with verbal comments and mocking.

Why Do Teens Eat More Food Than They Need?

Food is important for our body’s normal function, but at the same time, food can cause different emotions. There is a connection between food, people in our lives and emotions. When teens are feeling sad, depressed and lonely, they can turn to food.

Instead of having social relationships with people, they have it with food. Eating favorite foods give them pleasure, satisfaction and happiness than otherwise would be given by other people or activities and hobbies.

The Food Trap – Teen Eating Disorders

But, there’s a catch. Food does give pleasure and satisfaction, but for how long?

The pleasure only lasts for few minutes then the feeling of guilt and huge disappointment is experienced. Sometimes teens can’t control inner feelings or other factors that causes stress.

Teens with eating disorders use food as a weapon to help them cope with traumatic events that may cause depression or sadness.

Teens with eating disorders use food to fill that void of loss and emptiness they feel emotionally.

Physical emptiness is like a substitute to emotional emptiness. A person that eats too much feels like food can replace everything that’s missing in their lives.

They eat like there will be no food or as if they didn’t get enough (the amount they had deserved). The body doesn’t feel full, because this state is not only physical, but also emotional.

What to Do?

Modern diets are bringing people hope to lose weight, feel better and live longer. However, the tried-and-true method to lose weight is still healthy eating, good nutrition and regular exercise. Food is there to give energy and help the body function properly, not to be a friend and companion.

The first step to lose weight and take control over one’s life is to admit they have a problem.

Admitting is the hardest part of healing. When a person admits that they have a problem, the next step is to get help and support from family, friends, physicians and psychiatrist.

Another excellent support group is Overeaters Anonymous.

This group can help you or someone you care about learn how to lose weight and find a normal balance between food and emotions. Obesity can be treated, but it takes time and effort.

Finding Help

While this kind of information is enlightening, it can also be terrifying – especially if you suspect that your teen is struggling with low self-esteem, body image concerns or, more seriously, an eating disorder or substance abuse problem.

What do you do? Where do you turn? How can you stop your teen from spiraling into further danger? How can you get him or her out of the difficulty they’re currently facing?

First of all, remember that you cannot save your teen alone.

Helping anyone with a substance abuse problem or eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia requires the support of a team of caring, qualified professionals including doctors, counselors and mentors for both you and your child.

Second, enrolling your child in a specific teen rehab or teen wilderness program could be one of the most effective and comprehensive solutions to your child’s problems.

Wilderness rehabilitation programs are one of the fastest-growing and most popular forms of help for teens with substance or alcohol misuse issues.

Teen Rehab programs offer a safe, supportive team approach to helping teens build the confidence and skills necessary to overcome their substance or alcohol problems and establish a lifestyle that is both healthy and productive.

Teen Rehabs are designed to help students get back on track academically as well as emotionally.

If you suspect your teen of having an eating disorder, seek help immediately.

Remember, your teen’s life might just depend upon it.

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