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I Think My Teenager May Have an Eating Disorder: What Should I Do?

I Think My Teenager May Have an Eating Disorder: What Should I Do?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, eating disorders affect about 5% of the population and typically start in teens and young adults. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are two of the prevalent forms of eating disorders.

When teens have an eating disorder, it can lead to life-long health problems and can even be fatal in severe cases. Knowing the signs of an eating disorder tells you when to seek professional medical and psychiatric help.

If you suspect your teen has an eating disorder, the caring and compassionate team at Carolina Wellness Psychiatry can help. Our two board-certified psychiatrists and one expert psychologist offer various treatment options to help your teen return to healthy eating habits.

Key signs of an eating disorder

Eating disorders are serious problems that affect someone's physical and mental health. Teens and young adults are especially susceptible to the condition for various reasons, including advertising that emphasizes the importance of young adults being thin.

Many eating disorders exist, but the four most common in teens and young adults are anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. These conditions affect how your teen eats and can have serious consequences.

Teens aren't always open about their feelings and insecurities, especially concerning their bodies. Knowing the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder could save their life. You may suspect an eating disorder if your teen displays any of the following signs:

Extreme body insecurity

Most teens are a little insecure about their bodies. Still, when they begin body shaming themselves and constantly complain about being fat, it's a sign of a problem.

Skipping meals

Most teens are hungry all the time, so if your teen starts skipping meals or crash dieting, it could be a sign of an eating disorder.

Disappearing soon after eating

A key aspect of bulimia is vomiting after eating to rid the body of the calories your teen just ate. If you notice your teen is eating and then quickly going to the bathroom, it's a pretty good sign they may have an eating disorder.

Exercising excessively

Exercise is fantastic for teens in moderation — but when they begin to spend hours at a time, day after day, lifting weights or doing cardio, they may be compensating for the few calories they ate.

Switching to baggy clothes

If your teen suddenly begins wearing baggy clothes, it could be their attempt to hide extreme weight loss.

Refusing to eat in public

Teens with eating disorders may have a tough time eating in front of others. They may avoid eating in public places like restaurants or at family gatherings.

The following steps in treatment

If you suspect your teen is dealing with an eating disorder, it's crucial that you talk to them and get help as soon as possible. The earlier they get treatment, the less likely long-term adverse effects will be.

The first step in getting help is to make a doctor's appointment for your teen and discuss your concerns with the provider. They can then order testing and perform a thorough evaluation to determine if an eating disorder is present.

Your teen's doctor should also refer them to a mental health specialist for treatment of the root cause of the eating disorder. Treatment varies depending on what type of eating disorder they have and the severity of their failing health. Treatments you can expect include:

Acute medical care

Severe eating disorders may require your teen to spend a few days in the hospital. Their electrolytes may need adjusting and require nutritional support to avoid long-term health complications.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for people living with an eating disorder. Our team uses different types of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, to help your teen overcome negative thoughts about food.

Nutrition counseling

Your teen also needs to see a nutritional counselor to help them understand their relationship with food and make good choices for gaining weight back. It also teaches them how to get the proper nutrients they need to rebuild their health.

Medications

Some teens with eating disorders may also have depression and other mood disorders that require treatment. We prescribe medications to help ease those symptoms, which may help with the eating disorder as well.

To get expert help for your teenager with an eating disorder, call the Carolina Wellness Psychiatry team today at 919-446-3232, or message us on the website.

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