Teens and Eating Disorders: What Are the Warning Signs?
One percent of teenage girls in the United States develop anorexia nervosa; up to 10 percent of those who do may die as a result, according to information distributed by the American Anorexia/Bulimia Association.
Young adolescents who participate in sports such as dance or gymnastics where size and weight are important to success are especially prone to anorexia nervosa. (They're often told, “Be thin to win.”) Young girls who entered puberty early, have low self-esteem, or have negative feelings about their bodies are also potentially at risk.
Warning Signs of Anorexia
- Losing a significant amount of weight (25 percent of normal body weight) when no diet plan is needed or has been discussed
- Distorted body image—the teenager feels “fat” even when she's very thin
- Continuing to diet even once she's thin
- Fear of weight gain
- Amenorrhea (losing monthly menstrual periods)
- Being preoccupied with food, calories, nutrition, and/or cooking
- Exercising compulsively
- Bingeing and purging
Warning Signs of Bulimia
- Bingeing or eating uncontrollably, often secretly
- Purging by strict dieting, fasting, vigorous exercise, vomiting, or abusing laxatives or diuretics in an effort to lose weight
- Using the bathroom frequently after meals
- Preoccupation with body weight
- Depression or mood swings
- Irregular periods
- Developing dental problems, swollen cheek glands, or bloating