Parents, this guide shows you how to identify eating disorders in your teen. You know that the teens are a tumultuous time and, sadly, this is also when a majority of eating disorders develop. Parents have their own lives and when an eating disorder starts it’s insidious (The Many Causes of Eating Disorders). It’s a huge secret that the teen will try to hide. By the time you realize something is wrong the eating disorder is usually established. Here are the top three signs for parents to look for as a guide to identifying eating disorders in their teen.
I remember being a teen and I wouldn’t choose to go back there again. School can be rough trying to fit in, to be accepted and to be seen and loved. This is the time when eating disorders sneak into the teen’s life. Because parents also have their own lives, the eating disorders can go unnoticed or brushed off as a phase until it becomes something the family can’t avoid. The parent’s guide to identifying eating disorders in a teen are simple but can save your child’s life.
Top Three Signs That Identify Eating Disorders in Teens
When the eating disorder first comes into play, it seems like a good idea to the teen. There’s something in his or her life that feels out of control and the easiest thing to control, in his or her mind, is weight and food. I know for me this gave me a sense of pride and a way to measure my success in little accomplishments through the day. If I didn’t eat sweets, I was good. If I exercised too much, I was good because the eating disorder told me I was.
And in the swirl of high school and popularity, I desperately wanted to be good, to be someone. At that time my eating disorder made me feel special and there was no way anyone was taking that away from me. It was my huge secret.
Look for any way that your teen is being secretive with you, especially around food or exercise to identify an eating disorder in your teen.
2. Losing Weight or Weight Fluctuations
If teens are sliding into the world of anorexia, they will begin to lose weight rapidly. Sometimes they’ll change their wardrobe and begin to wear baggier clothes to hide their weight loss from others. Are they suddenly losing weight for no real reason? If your child is sliding into the world of bulimia, he or she may not lose weight or the weight may yo-yo from smaller to larger.
The main thing you can look for with identifying bulimia is your child eating large portions of food or binge food (which is usually high in calories, like sweets) and then usually going to the bathroom to throw them up shortly afterward. If your child is throwing up, eventually a callus will form on the finger used to gag him or herself. Most of the time parents will overhear the vomiting or notice the large portions of food first.
3. Weird Eating Habits and Making Excuses
Teens with eating disorders develop little rules about food such as what’s safe to eat and what’s taboo. This can cause tons of stress for families at mealtimes and for the family member trying to prepare food. Your teen will also probably make excuses or lie about having eaten earlier or not being hungry, despite the fact that he or she probably didn’t eat earlier and might, in fact, be hungry.
What to Do If You Identify an Eating Disorder in Your Teen
If you’re a parent and you notice these things with your teen it’s important to address these things right away. Pay attention to your teens. If you notice something isn’t right, talk with them about it, with love, and then make an appointment with/for them to see a therapist. Better yet, make an appointment for the whole family to get family therapy.
A disorder doesn’t just come out of nowhere. A family system is like a web where everything affects everything else. It’s not just the teen’s problem, it’s a family dynamic problem and the sooner it’s addressed, the better chance your teen has for having a healthy, happy life free from an eating disorder.