Eating Disorders Among Teens

Marazul Bullard, Reporter

To most people, eating a full meal seems like a simple, everyday function that can easily be done at least three times a day. However, 60 percent of the teenage population say eating is a sickening chore that brings much burden, according to The National Eating Disorders Association. Unfortunately, this 60 percent is actively dieting and are 75 percent more likely to develop an eating disorder, whether it’s Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, or binge-eating,  in which the person has a hard time limiting the amount of food they consume.

Eating disorders are psychological disorders that make it hard for some people to maintain healthy eating habits. According to Rebecca Wallace, a counselor at Battle, eating disorders can occur for a variety of reasons.

 “I think expectations play a huge role in eating disorders. For example, what you see in the media can affect how you view yourself because you might realize that you don’t look exactly like a certain person, so you’ll try to take things into your own hands in order to look more like what you’re being shown,” Wallace said.

According to WebMD, anorexia nervosa is a common form of eating disorder that affects 1 in every 100 teenagers. This is when the teen obsesses over keeping a very low body weight. They attempt to reach this unhealthy image by over exercising, skipping meals, and/or eating very small portions.  Bulimia nervosa is a form in which the teen eats excessively for a period of time, followed by a form of expunging such as forceful vomiting or an overuse of laxatives in order to get rid of the food before the body is able to gain the weight from the amount consumed. The third most common eating disorder is known as binge eating in which the teen is unable to control the amount of food they consume, which cause them to gain a large amount of weight and could quite possibly result in obesity. Although these three are the most common, it is very possible to have an eating disorder that doesn’t specifically fit into these three categories. 

Studies show that any form of an eating disorder can be extremely unhealthy, physically and mentally. There are many long term effects when an adolescent does not seek help for their eating disorder and continues to hold an unhealthy eating habit. According to The National Eating Disorders Association, many common effects are heart failure, an imbalance of electrolytes in the body which can lead to death caused by an excess amount of vomiting, intestinal obstruction, anemia, kidney failure, and hormonal deficiencies, which can lead to low bone density and missed menstrual cycles. 

Although there is a high severity to eating disorders, Dana Harris, counselor at Battle, says they are very much treatable. She added that there are several different ways to treat an eating disorder such as cognitive behavioral therapy, medical monitoring, nutritional feeding, and even psychological treatment. 

“The main treatment for an eating disorder is learning how to love yourself and love your body because self esteem plays a huge role in the causes of an eating disorder,” Harris mentioned. “The first step to getting treatment is reaching out for help.” 

Harris added that the most important thing is to get help. 

“I would tell a student who’s going through that that it’s okay to come ask for help and to acknowledge it because you can get over it and you can recover,” Harris added.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, the Helpline for The National Eating Disorders Association is (800) 931-2237.