An eating disorder isn't easy to see from a parent's perspective. While you might think the outward signs may be unmistakable, such is not always the case. Eating disorders — and the mental health issues they're often linked with — can be concealed, while life on the outside is made to seem like everything is fine. Any prying could also potentially worsen a situation.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1 in 10 female teens suffer from an eating disorder. Yet eating disorders can develop in adolescents of all ages, genders and backgrounds.
It's important to find help quickly for loved ones suffering from an eating disorder, which can be life-threatening. This means awareness and identification are essential for any worried parents. Here are four warnings to be knowledge of:
1. Frequent dieting
Fad diets tend to sweep through high schools, but a preoccupation with calorie counts and other nutritional values can be a sign that points to deeper issues. Dieting taken to the point were rules or caloric counting become rigid, inflexible routines that provoke anger or anguish when not adhered to may be indicative of some form of eating disorder, or at least an unhealthy relationship with food.
"Be aware of eating in isolation."
2. Eating away from others
Taking dinner up to a bedroom may not seem like a big thing. But if your teen does it constantly, or makes excuses to eat in private, that's a potential symptom. The anxiety and shame associated with eating often drives those who suffer from a disorder to try to hide any eating. If such isolation occurs at home, in school or elsewhere, there may be something larger at play. Finding wrappers or trash in bathrooms or other areas could be cause to heighten your alarm, given an existing situation.
3. Change in behavior
Eating disorder are inextricably linked to metal health issues. The majority of people suffering from anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorders meet criteria for another core DSM-listed disorder, such as depression, paranoia or lack of impulse control. Together, these conditions may cause changes in your child that go beyond becoming a teen who is embarrassed by family. Irritability, discouraged feelings, obsession with body image and social withdrawal all call for further investigation if you're a parent.
4. Poor general health or other physical changes
While rapid weight loss is a clear sign of a problem, physical changes may not always be as apparent. Additionally, while ailments like a sore throat or a cold that just seems to stay may not raise alarms, the decreased immune response may be a greater issue. On harder-to-detect level, tooth decay, dry or flaky skin, heartburn, slow wound healing and swollen joints should also be looked at closely if concerns already exist.
If these symptoms present in your teen, it's best to watch for a bit, but inquire for help concurrently. If not indicative of an eating disorder, some of these warnings signs are alarming regardless. It can be a difficult process to find help for your child, but Fairwinds Treatment Center can walk you and your family through the options and potential steps. Reach out to us today.