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eating disorders in teen girls

A Dangerous Situation: Consequences of Eating Disorders in Teen Girls

A Dangerous Situation: Consequences of Eating Disorders in Teen Girls 2560 1707 se_admin

Today’s teenage girls face an onslaught of messages from peers, social media sources, and magazines depicting a sensationalized version of what the ideal female form should look like. Despite recent body positivity campaigns to help promote and celebrate bodies of all shapes and sizes, surveys indicated that 33% of teen girls believed they were overweight and a staggering 56% were attempting to actively lose weight.

A new study in 2020, found that higher numbers of Generation Z adolescents in particular are engaging in dieting practices and increasing exercise to lose weight, and when asked they are likely to overestimate their own weight. Engaging in these practices to lose weight, rather than looking at diet and exercise as a way to promote health and wellbeing, can put adolescents at a much higher rate for developing an eating disorder.

The onset of eating disorders typically occur during pre-adolescence or adolescence, and this effect size is enormous for teen girls as more than 90% of diagnosed eating disorders are found in females. Given the monumental consequences, both short and long term, for developing an eating disorder, it’s imperative for parents to learn about the various types of eating disorders, their symptoms, and treatment options to get their daughters the help they need as early as possible. Research has indicated that early diagnosis and intervention are two key steps toward possible recovery.

Common causes for developing eating disorders

It’s not uncommon for teens to change their eating habits from time, as they may experiment with trying different eating styles such as veganism or vegetarianism, or they may actively try to eat healthier. These changes often pass quickly and spotting these changes in eating patterns can help you determine if there is cause for concern or if your teen is just experimenting with her diet.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint any one cause of developing an eating disorder, there are many factors that may put your daughter at risk. One of the main systemic causes thought to be associated with eating disorders are social attitudes toward body appearance, particularly unrealistic ideals of what a female body should look like. Adolescents are also more likely to be at risk for developing an eating disorder if they come from a family with a history of weight problems, physical illnesses, mental health issues, or a genetic predisposition for eating disorders. An individual history of other mental health disorders such as anxiety, OCD, and problems with substance abuse can also put teen girls at risk for developing an eating disorder.

Family dynamics and participation in athletics can also increase the risk of eating disorders if teens are surrounded by high levels of stress, poor communication, and feel pressure from unrealistically high expectations. This is particularly relevant for athletes as many sports such as ballet, running, wrestling, or gymnastics emphasize leanness in order to be a better competitor.

There are three common eating disorders diagnosed in adolescent girls and each comes with its own set of symptoms and complications. These are binge eating disorder, anorexia, and bulimia.

Common eating disorders and their symptoms

Binge eating disorder is defined as regularly consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time without the ability to control the binges, and subsequently feeling extreme guilt about the binges. Due to the guilt they feel, teens may try to hide their food binges by eating in private and make unsuccessful attempts to diet in order to curb this compulsion. The following are signs your daughter may have a binge eating disorder:

– Eating large amounts of food in short periods of time
– Eating even when they are not hungry
– Eating so much they make themselves physically uncomfortable
– Sneaking or hiding food and eating in private
– Feeling they are unable to control food consumption and feeling depressed or disgusted after binging

Bulimia is also categorized by eating large quantities of food in a short period of time, but it is also marked by purging, where one follows up a binge with compensatory behavior such as vomiting, using laxatives, using enemas, fasting, or excessive exercise. Teens with bulimia will often hide their binge and purge episodes, and can be difficult to detect as they are usually close to a normal weight. Here are some warning signs to look out for:

– Eating large amounts of food with no apparent weight changes
– Hiding food or discarded food containers
– Engaging in excessive exercise
– Frequent trips to the bathroom after meal time
– Inappropriate use of laxatives or diuretics
– Frequently clogged showers or toilets

Lastly, anorexia is categorized by an obsession with thinness and presents by taking extreme measures to avoid eating and control the quantity and quality of the foods that they do eat. Individuals with anorexia also typically experience body dysmorphia in which even after they are at unhealthily low weights they still feel fat and restrict calories because they have a distorted image of their own bodies. Symptoms of anorexia include:

– A distorted view of one’s own body weight, even if they are underweight
– Restricting or discarding food in secret
– Obsessively counting calories and checking nutrition labels
– Denying feeling hungry
– Creating rituals about preparing and eating food
– Exercising compulsively
– Extreme emotional changes such as irritability, depression, and anxiety
– Missing periods or having irregular periods

Developing any of these eating disorders can put your daughter at risk for some severe short and long term negative impacts on physical, mental, and social health.

Short and long term consequences of eating disorders

Struggling with an eating disorder will have many impacts on teen girls not only while they are experiencing the disorder but for years to come as well. Disordering eating can impact a teen’s ability to function normally and participate in all her usual daily activities.

Anorexia’s immediate complications are extremely dangerous and in some cases can be fatal. During the disorder, anorexia can cause fatigue and fainting, a slow heart rate, low blood pressure, heart failure, osteoporosis, muscle loss, kidney failure, and loss of menstruation. In the long run, anorexia increases the risk for having psychological problems, such as developing anxiety and depression, lifelong physical complications such as weakened heart functioning, bone density, gastrointestinal issues, damage to the reproductive system, and organ failure, and neurological issues such as seizures, disordered thinking, and numbness in the hands or feets. Some impacts, such as severe bone loss, can be irreversible.

Bulimia can immediately cause dehydration, an electrolyte imbalance, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, tooth decay, acid reflux, inflammation or eruption of the esophagus, and intestinal distress. Many of these consequences will dissipate once a person recovers from bulimia but there are also lingering long term health impacts due to the period of poor nutrition. These include diabetes, brittle bones, dental problems, and reproductive difficulties such as infrequent menstrual periods.

In the short term, binge eating disorder can cause emotional issues such as shame, guilt, social isolation, physical complications such as weight gain and fatigue, and mental issues such as anxiety and depression. The long term consequences of binge eating disorder are those most often associated with being overweight and include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver and gallbladder disease, and sleep apnea.

These complications, both in the short and long term, signal an importance to get your daughter treatment as soon as possible, as earlier interventions are known to have a more positive impact on the healing journey.

How to get help if your daughter is struggling with an eating disorder

There are many ways you can help prevent and treat eating disorders in your child. Families can play an essential role in preventing eating disorders by knowing the key risk factors and opening up a dialogue surrounding nutrition, body image, and health. Some key strategies in prevention are dispelling common eating disorder myths, discouraging dieting behaviors, eating meals as a family, avoiding weight talk including teasing about weight, focusing on healthy eating habits, and discussing healthy behaviors that promote well-being rather than weight maintenance.

Eating disorder treatment often takes a multidisciplinary approach and can include medical, psychiatric, individual, and family therapy along with nutritional rehabilitation aimed at restoring a healthy body weight. Because of the many health complications associated with eating disorders, it’s common for treatment to require close supervision of a medical profession, either in in-patient or out-patient treatment facilities. In some cases, medication may be administered if psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression are also present.

A variety of therapies has been found to be effective in treating eating disorders. Individual therapy will usually involve behavioral and cognitive techniques and group therapy allows individuals to find a safe place where they can open up about their struggles and relate to others experiencing similar challenges. Family therapy is also common and focuses on supporting the family in nutritional rehabilitation and how to navigate mental health issues. Nutritional therapy or counselling can provide your daughter with nutrition education, meal planning, and goal setting, which seeks to help her cultivate a healthier relationship with food for life-long change.

If your daughter is struggling with an eating disorder and the associated complications, Solstice East can provide her the all-encompassing and supportive care she needs to put her on the path toward healing.

Solstice East Can Help

Solstice East is a top-rated residential treatment center specializing in the treatment of adolescent females ages 14-18. We offer on-site equine therapy, an accredited academic schedule, and world-class therapeutic programming to treat a wide range of trauma and disorders including eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Our clients receive a unique combination of therapeutic methods stemming from traditional and holistic mental health treatments that are age and gender specific.

Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff. Our groundbreaking approach allows our students to heal while compiling skills and practices to best serve them throughout their life journey. For more information, please call (828) 759-5903.

Eating Disorders in Teen Athletes

Eating Disorders in Teen Athletes 150 150 se_admin

With media today, body image in teen girls has become an increasing problem. Teens feel more pressure to fit a specific body type, which is ultimately leading to more and more issues with eating disorders in youth. As a growing number of teen girls participate in sports, health issues have begun to arise from eating disorders in teen athletes. A recent article by Reuters discussed how eating disorders in teen athletes has begun to increase, and the need for doctors and parents to be aware of the health risks.

The Female Athlete Triad

Eating disorders in teen athletes can be seen when teens exercise too much and don’t eat enough calories to maintain the amount of physical activity. The health issues associated with eating disorders in teen athletes include: disordered eating, a halt in monthly menstrual cycles known as amenorrhea, and a bone-thinning disease known as osteoporosis. These three issues are known as the female athlete triad. Girls can have just one of these problems or a combination, in varying degrees.

The Dangers of Over Training

While sports can have tremendous benefits like improved self-esteem and better physical and mental health, doctors, parents, and coaches need to be aware of eating disorder habits in teen athletes. If teens begin to train too hard, the elements of the triad can surface, which can have dangerous consequences on girl’s bodies.

Timothy Neal, a researcher with the athletic training program at Concordia University in Ann Arbor Michigan states:

“It has been my experience that coaches, parents, pediatricians and family practice physicians are not experienced in caring for athletes, and athletes themselves are not aware of the health risks unique to the triad for female athletes. Parents, athletes, pediatricians, coaches and certified athletic trainers should be aware of signs and symptoms of eating disorders, including those athletes who display signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, isolation, and other behaviors that may indicate a mental health disorder.”

Be Aware of Your Body

Being aware of your body and the signals it’s giving you is an important part of staying healthy. Teen’s and parents should be aware of the risks low-calorie intake and excessive exercise can have on the body physically and emotionally. If your worried your teen is suffering from eating disorders in teen athletes, there are programs that can help.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18, grappling with teen depression, anxiety, trauma, and other emotional or behavioral issues. We strive to help our girls lead themselves back onto a path of health and happiness.

For more information about how Solstice East handles social media addiction, please call 828-484-9946!


The Eating Disorder That Goes Undiscussed: Binge Eating In Teens

The Eating Disorder That Goes Undiscussed: Binge Eating In Teens 150 150 se_admin

Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that not many people talk about. Stuffing your face with an entire gallon of ice cream or an entire pizza due to a recent breakup or some other emotional distress may not be the healthiest way to express emotional distress, but it certainly is not the same as binge eating in teens. Binge eating disorder is a serious mental health issue which is characterized by the consumption of large amounts of food in a very short period of time while feeling like these behaviors are out of your control.

What does binge eating in teens look like?

Unlike anorexia and bulimia, “purging” is not a characteristic of binge eating in teens.  Most people struggling with binge eating disorder are overweight or obese. There are those, however, who control their weight through dieting. 

Binge eating in teens usually occurs over a set period of time (for example, an individual may binge for 2 hours each time). Binge eaters feel like their eating is out of control during those periods of time. Some describe the experience as trance-like. They can’t stop themselves no matter how hard they try.

Like other eating disorders, binge eating disorder can be influenced negative thoughts about one’s body and stress. No one knows the exact cause of binge eating teens, but other risk factors include:

  • Family history: If someone else in your family suffers from binge eating disorder or another eating disorder, you are more likely to develop one yourself.
  • Dieting: People who have dieted frequently in the past are more at risk for binge eating disorder than infrequent dieters.
  • Being a teenager or in your 20s: The age group that is the most at risk for binge eating disorder is late teens through 20s.

Binge eating in teens is linked to psychiatric disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and substance use.

Getting treatment for binge eating in teens

Binge eating in teens is a serious mental health issue that should be diagnosed and treated as soon as parents see the signs. Medication and talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, have been known to be effective treatments for this disorder.

Sending your teen to an inpatient residential treatment facility after most of their symptoms have been treated might be the next step you teen needs to make a full recovery.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East, a residential treatment center for teen girls ages 14-17, can help your struggling daughter find success. Solstice East help girls struggling with depression, mild disordered eating, anxiety, and trauma-related issues.

For more information about Solstice East, please call (855) 672-7058.

The Dangerous Cousin to Eating Disorders: Disordered Eating

The Dangerous Cousin to Eating Disorders: Disordered Eating 150 150 se_admin

Disordered eating–though not as serious as a full-blown eating disorder–is more prevalent among teens and adults. Disordered eating has the potential to turn into a more damaging issue, like anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders; this makes it a dangerous habit for your teenage girl to take on. It’s estimated that around half a million teens struggle with disordered eating or eating disorders.

What is disordered eating?

The main difference between eating disorders and disordered eating is the level of severity and frequency of abnormal eating behaviors. Disordered eating is typically less severe and less frequent than eating disorders. Disordered eating includes unhealthy weight loss tactics: skipping meals, fasting, obsessive calorie counting, etc.

Why does it begin?

The short answer is the media. It’s more complicated than that, but a large portion of disordered eating begins with an idea of what a girl should look like according to the media. Oftentimes, this is the thin, tall, blemish-free model–which doesn’t represent the mass majority of females. We’re all exposed to this through television, commercials, ads on the highway, magazines, social media, and any other form of media you can think of. Girls become dissatisfied with their bodies, thinking they need to look more like the women they see as “glamorous” and turn to unhealthy means of losing weight.

What can a parent do?

This type of issue often develops as a result of low self-esteem or pulling their self-worth from their outward appearance. To combat this, a parent can show further support, body positivity, and make sure their teen is getting the nutrition they need while feeling comfortable in their own body. But, because of the danger of disordered eating morphing into an eating disorder, it’s important to seek out professional guidance. By doing this, a teen can get not only your support, but a professional’s support as well.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18, grappling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and other emotional or behavioral issues. We strive to help our girls lead themselves back onto a path of health and happiness.

For more information about how Solstice East handles disordered eating, please call 828-484-9946!

Eating Disorder Behaviors

Eating Disorder Behaviors 150 150 se_admin

A General Understanding of Eating Disorder Behaviors

When people envision someone with eating disorder behaviors, the most common image is of a young, thin, Caucasian female. But the reality is that anyone can be struggling with eating disorder behaviors, including your brother, best friend, father, or mother. Eating disorder behaviors do not differentiate based on gender, age, social status, body size, race, or ethnicity. While anyone can have an eating disorder, girls often struggle with stereotypical expectations from their peers to be skinny, voluptuous, and beautiful. They are life-threatening mental illnesses and are often highly misunderstood. An article by Psychology Today discusses how to recognize eating disorder behaviors.

How We Judge the Conditions of an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are one of the few mental illnesses where we base an individual’s level of suffering on their physical appearance. But what people often forget is that eating disorder behaviors can have drastic mental and physical consequences on individuals who show no physical signs of an eating disorder. Many people with eating disorder behaviors appear to meet our societal standard of healthy or may even be considered overweight. Eating disorder behaviors are considered characteristics of mental illnesses, and should never be determined based on someone’s weight.

The Misconceptions

It the misconceptions and stigmas that are contributing to the lack of understanding about what eating disorder behaviors are. The myth that you can tell someone has an eating disorder based on their appearance can be detrimental to those who don’t fit that stereotypical mold. Individuals with eating disorder behaviors may not seek treatment, receive support, or could remain in denial about their illness because they think there is a specific “look” for having an eating disorder. Eating disorders can appear in people of all sizes. Our society frequently considers skinny individuals who compulsively exercise and have restrictive behaviors to be sick. Yet, when an overweight person does the same they are encouraged for working on their physical well-being. Eating disorder behaviors can be deadly, but with the right treatment options people can gain the support and recovery they need.

Solstice East can help

Solstice East is a residential treatment center for girls, ages 14 to 18, grappling with teen depression, anxiety, trauma, and other emotional or behavioral issues. We strive to help our girls lead themselves back onto a path of health and happiness.

For more information about how Solstice East handles disordered eating, please call 828-484-9946!