Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder
As a parent, the last thing you want to see is your daughter in pain. You want to protect her from all the difficulties you experienced when you were younger. Unfortunately, adolescents today have an entirely different set of challenges to face. Societal pressure to fit in a specific mold existed during your teenage years, but social media has magnified the pressure in today’s youth.
One major problem women face today is the need to be thin. Though the idea is nothing new, the extreme extent to which they face it is. Their social media feeds are filled with thousands of posts featuring highly-edited influencers, creating a never-ending scroll of impossible ideals. Many girls feel the mounting pressure and some respond by developing an eating disorder.
Sometimes it’s difficult to detect disordered eating patterns. Still, as a parent, you must know the signs of an eating disorder so you can keep an eye out for any concerning behaviors in your children. What are some things to look for if you’re concerned your daughter might have a problem with disordered eating?
Types and Signs of Eating Disorders
The most common sign of an eating disorder is an intense, persistent fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. Many adolescent girls share these fears but the thing that separates those with eating disorders are the intentional actions they take to avoid gaining weight. For example, they might restrict food, partake in excessive exercise, or purge what they have eaten.
These various disordered eating behaviors manifest in one of three main types: anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Each type has its own particular set of behaviors. Understanding the different types gives you a better idea of the potential signs of an eating disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is often seen as the face of eating disorders. Adolescents with anorexia nervosa avoid eating, restrict food to extreme levels, or eat only very specific foods. They are often obviously and dangerously underweight but still see themselves as overweight or obese. Anorexia is also associated with using excessive exercise as a tool to control weight.
Anorexia is simple to hide at first. Early signs of anorexia might include your daughter saying she’s full without eating or she may skip meals. She might push food around on her plate without eating or prepare her own specific, particular types of foods. You might overlook the signs at first and take them at face value.
As her condition progresses, though, it becomes more challenging to conceal. The signs of anorexia over time include ongoing and extreme weight loss and an inability to gain weight. She feels lethargic and exhausted for no apparent reason and she might have trouble focusing or completing schoolwork. Severe effects of anorexia include the loss of menstruation over time.
Bulimia nervosa is another type of weight-attentive eating disorder. Bulimia consists of a pattern of uncontrolled binge episodes paired with compensatory behaviors to counteract their overeating. Adolescents with the disorder eat large amounts of food, feeling little to no control over themselves while doing so. Then they try to compensate for these episodes usually by forcing vomiting, but also by fasting, using laxatives, diuretics, or exercising.
Bulimia nervosa can be more difficult to notice because there might not be such extreme weight loss. Adolescents try to conceal their forced purges by running water from the sink or shower to cover the sounds. They tend to experience acid reflux and other gastrointestinal issues from excessive purging. Dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and tooth sensitivity are also common.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder (BED) was officially recognized as an eating disorder in the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The disorder is characterized by extreme episodes of eating more quickly than usual and eating until uncomfortably full. BED is also associated with a loss of control over eating behaviors as well as feeling guilt, shame, or distress as a result. Those with BED tend to eat alone because of these feelings.
The difference between binge eating disorder and bulimia is that people with BED don’t carry out additional behaviors to avoid gaining weight. They have binge eating episodes and do not make any attempts afterward to compensate for overeating.
Many people believe obesity is an obvious sign of binge eating disorder but that’s not always true. Not all people living in a large body battle with BED and not everyone with BED lives in a large body. Look for other signs of binge eating disorder aside from possible weight gain.
Additional signs of binge eating disorder in your child may include excessive amounts of food missing from the pantry with no explanation. You might find wrappers in the trash or hidden in their bedroom after binge eating episodes. BED is also very expensive at times so you might notice they’re spending money quickly with little or nothing to show for it.
What to Do if You Notice Signs of an Eating Disorder
Realizing and accepting that your child is struggling with an eating disorder is overwhelming. What can you do if you notice your child might have an eating disorder? Once you see the warning signs it’s time to reach out for professional help.
Eating disorder treatment facilities like Selah House provide a pathway to recovery from eating disorders. Through an understanding and accepting approach, we help your child see the dangers of their disorder. We walk her through addressing the deeper causes of her eating disorder and use a holistic approach to ensure long-term recovery.
Ready to learn more about the help available for your child? Selah House is here and available to help. Call us today at 765-253-4087 to find out more about the programs and services we offer. Freedom from the pain of eating disorders is possible; let us show you the way.