Adolescence can be a tricky stage in life for parents and their teenagers alike. You only want what's best for your kids, but the pressures and changes of adolescence can make it hard to communicate or connect. Many parents worry, which is only natural; yet sometimes that concern is warranted.
About 1 in 10 teenage girls will develop an eating disorder, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, while adolescent boys are also at risk. Scores of families with teens will have to face the reality of eating disorders, which is not easy. The stress and damaging behavior can compound existing issues. However, given the potentially life-threatening nature of these conditions, identification and action are needed.
Here are three things you should know about adolescent eating disorders:
1. Eating disorders are often linked to mental health issues
There is a common misconception that eating disorders are borne of themselves, that outside of usual teenage angst there are no conditions that may lead to or further complicate an eating disorder. It's crucial that parents understand the link between eating disorders and mental health. It is rare that any eating disorder exists on its own, as they are often linked with serious mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress or obsessive compulsive disorder.
In fact, statistics from one study cited by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) found 95% of individuals hospitalized for an eating disorder had a co-occurring mood disorder. Stress or low self-esteem as a result of negative school interactions or other life events can foster concurrent disorders. It's vital to recognize this inherent link when talking with a teenager or finding help.
2. Early identification is key
Eating disorders are tough to spot. Skipping meals or rigorous dieting can sometimes seem like teenage behavior; but it's important to look closer if these symptoms and signs begin to manifest. Why? Because eating disorders are life-threatening conditions. Separate statistics cited by NEDA show eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, behind opioid addiction. Further, 1 in 5 deaths due to anorexia is a suicide.
There's little time to waste in finding treatment, especially if symptoms start to appear more frequently or seem to worsen. While taking such action is never easy, it can be life saving.
3. There are multiple types of eating disorders
Another unfortunate misconception about eating disorders is tending to group them all together. This can come to the detriment of finding effective treatment. Anorexia nervosa, binge-eating, bulimia, pica and other disorders all have distinct symptoms, side effects and effective care options. Treating one eating disorder as any other can only exacerbate the problem. Acting as if an eating disorder is just a teenage phase, and not giving it the serious attention it requires, can also be a damaging mistake.
Getting more information is the first step to tackling the issue head-on. While eating disorders are sensitive topics to discuss, it's imperative that any concerned parent understand what their child is going through. If you're looking for treatment options or just more knowledge, talk to Fairwinds Treatment Centers today.