Eating disorders can affect every age, gender, race and socioeconomic group. In youths and young adults, the incidence of eating disorders is more than 5 percent for females and 1 percent for males.
You can’t tell from looking at someone that they have an eating disorder. It is important to pay attention to the subtle signs and clues to help identify unhealthy eating in your pre-teen, teen or young adult.
Some kids may not have the classic symptoms of a specific eating disorder. Instead, they may show signs from several disorders. The most common eating disorders include:
Because people tend to experience eating disorders over extended periods of time, they run the risk of serious health consequences. This is especially true for growing bodies. Some common health concerns are:
Inadequate calorie consumption can lead to a breakdown of muscle as the body uses its own tissue for fuel. The heart is the most important muscle in the body and when it doesn’t have the fuel it needs it cannot function properly, increasing the risk of blood pressure concerns and heart failure.
Disordered eating habits can affect normal digestive function and cause potentially life-threatening problems like malnutrition, intestinal obstruction or esophageal perforation.
The brain uses up to one-fifth of the body’s calories to function. Without proper nutrition, it doesn’t have the energy it needs. That can result in difficulty concentrating, seizures or numbing of extremities.
The body uses fat and cholesterol to make the hormones it needs to function. Deficient hormone levels can cause irregular or halted menstruation, bone loss and increased risk for fractures.
Frequent dieting is a known risk factor for developing an eating disorder. Other risks include:
There are physical signs you as a caregiver can watch for if you are concerned about your tween, teen or young adult. They include:
Help with eating disorder
If you’re concerned your loved one is at risk for or is experiencing an eating disorder, use these guidelines:
When you need help, reach out to your loved one’s primary care physician and request a consultation with a registered dietitian who has experience with eating disorders. Getting support from a behavioral therapist who specializes in disordered eating is also important because the medical and psychological aspects of this disease are closely linked.
Treatment can be very effective, especially when started early. It can even reverse some of the negative health consequences of disordered eating. To learn more, visit the UCLA Eating Disorder Program website.
Tags: anorexia nervosa, ARFID, Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, binge eating, binge eating disorder, brain health, bulimia nervosa, Children’s Health, digestive health, eating disorders, heart health, Mental Health, nutrition, pre-teen, teen, UCLA Eating Disorder Program, weight loss, Wellness, young adults