Anorexia nervosa (or simply “anorexia”) is a serious and dangerous eating disorder typified by self starvation. Although anorexia is potentially life threatening among all age groups, it is particularly troubling among the teenaged segment of the population, partly because the habits developed during the teen years are often internalized and carried over into adulthood and partly because the teenaged body is still developing and is highly susceptible to damage from unhealthy lifestyle choices like anorexia. If you suspect that your teen could be anorexic, know that anorexia is often a very difficult habit to break, so it is therefore usually necessary for you to seek professional help. Below you will find the top three basic facts about anorexia in teens:
1. It can affect anyone.
Girls in their teens are more likely than any other segment of the population to suffer from anorexia, but that doesn’t mean that the eating disorder is limited to that gender and age group. Approximately ten percent of teens with anorexia are boys, but because the most of general population tends to misunderstand the disease and often believes that anorexia strikes only females, anorexic boys often go undiagnosed and therefore untreated. And anorexia isn’t uncommon: Approximately one percent of teenagers has an eating disorder. There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to the development of anorexia, and although these are not certain determinants, as a parent, you should watch for these possible anorexia precursors:
- Emotional or mental disorders (anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.)
- Excessive fear of weight gain
- Friends or family members who are overly concerned with weight
- Involvement in sports that place an emphasis on weight (wrestling, ballet, gymnastics, etc.)
- Fear of being out of control (and therefore overcompensating by controlling the body)
2. It’s usually easy to spot.
Luckily, anorexia is generally very easy for concerned parents to diagnose. Because anorexia is characterized by self starvation, your teen will likely lose a large amount of weight very quickly, and if you usually eat meals with your teen, it should be easy for you to observe their eating habits and determine if those habits are typical of anorexia. Anorexic teens tend to exhibit some or all of the following signs:
- Continuing to losing weight even if they are underweight
- Denying that they are underweight
- Obsessing about their weight
- Developing strict eating habits (obsessive calorie counting, eating rituals, food weighing, etc.)
- Exercising excessively
- Claiming that they are never hungry
- Commenting excessively on the weight of others
3. It’s dangerous.
Anorexia among teens is not something that should be taken lightly. Although exact statistics are difficult to calculate, it is estimated that anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of teenagers with anorexia eventually die because of their eating disorder. Besides causing side effects like broken nails, dry hair and skin, and hair loss, anorexia can also cause the following more serious health problems:
- Brittle bones
- Liver, heart, and kidney damage
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of menstrual cycle
- Swollen joints
- Poor concentration
If you suspect that you teen may be suffering from anorexia, it is crucial that you seek help immediately. Anorexia is often rooted in serious mental or emotional problems, and as such, you and your teen would probably both benefit from the help of a professional.