Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating are the most common eating disorders developed by adolescent girls. If you are a parent and you’re concerned that your daughter has an eating disorder, we know how frightened you must feel. Eating disorders are serious psychological illnesses that can cause devastating health problems. Fortunately, eating disorders are all extremely treatable, especially when they’re caught early on.
The following signs are typical of an adolescent with an eating disorder:
- Eating secretly
- Preoccupation with food
- Calorie counting
- Fear of becoming fat
- Binge eating
- Food phobias or avoidance
Why Do Eating Disorders Happen?
There are various triggers for eating disorders, ranging from genetics, psychology and biochemistry, to external reasons like low self-esteem and culture. Teenage girls live in a culture that over-emphasizes appearance and connect thinness with happiness. They are also huge consumers of a fat-phobic media that promotes unrealistic body types. If your daughter is also a perfectionist, has self-esteem issues, trouble coping with emotions, anxiety, depression or tends to act impulsively, these can all be contributing factors to the development of an eating disorder.
Common Eating Disorders and Their Warning Signs
- Perfectionism, an obsession with control and a display of compulsive habits
- Skipping meals, eating tiny portions, won’t eat in front of others, eats in ritualistic ways, chews food but spits it out before swallowing and creates strange food combinations
- Always has an excuse not to eat
- Becomes disgusted with formerly favorite foods
- Only eats “safe” foods
- Boasts about healthy diet
- Claims to be “vegetarian” but will not eat necessary nutrients required by vegetarianism
- Drastically reduces fat intake and reads food labels obsessively
- Obsession with exercise and checking weight
- Might abuse drugs or alcohol
- Consistent self-criticism, use of the word “fat”
- Anxiety and depression
- Always wears baggy clothing
- Impulsive, volatile and risky behavior
- Vomits after breaking the self-imposed rigid eating rules
- Abuses laxatives, diet pills or water pills
- Obsessively uses natural products from health food stores to promote weight loss
- Might abuse drugs or alcohol
- Leaves behind clues of purging like foul smelling bathrooms, running water to cover up vomiting sounds and excessively uses mouthwash and mints
- Anxiety and depression
- Hypertensive [(high blood pressure)
- A sore throat, dental erosions, esophagitis and electrolyte imbalance all due to vomiting
Binge eating warning signs:
- Sets restrictive diet rules and then binges when hungry
- Eats in secret
- Buys special food for binging
- Eating rapidly
- Eating when not hungry
- Feelings of guilt related to overeating
- Depression or mood swings
- Weight gain
- Hiding food in strange places
How Eating Disorders are Treated
Eating disorders require a comprehensive, thorough treatment program in order to combat the illness before significant medical issues arise. Medical consequences of an eating disorder include damage to the brain, heart, bones, kidneys, reproductive system and liver. The CERTS Group is a certified residential treatment center for adolescent girls who are struggling with eating disorders, drug abuse and other problems. “Our programs have a structure based upon Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), while blending traditional talk therapy with experiential therapies (equine assisted psychotherapy, art therapy, adventure therapy, music therapy, etc.) to achieve a longer lasting, more powerful change.”
We all know that teenagers are known for being moody, rebellious, egocentric and emotional. This is just normal adolescent behavior. However, major depression is a common mental disorder that affects an estimated 3 million American adolescents between ages 12 and 17. There are various reasons why a teenager will develop depression, these include:
Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that carry signals to other parts of the brain and body. When these chemicals are impaired, the function of nerve receptors and systems can change, leading to depression.
Teenagers experience rapid hormonal changes, which have been shown to cause or trigger depression.
Depression is more common in teenagers whose blood relatives also have the condition.
Early childhood trauma
Traumatic events during childhood, like physical or emotional abuse or the loss of a close family member may cause changes in the brain that make a teen more prone to depression.
Learned patterns of negative thinking
Teen depression can be linked to learning to feel helpless, rather than learning to feel capable of finding solutions to life’s challenges.
Know the symptoms
Moodiness isn’t the same as depression, so how do you tell the difference between normal teenage mood swings and depression? Pay attention to whether or not there’s been a real change in the functioning of your child’s behavior. Notice changes in appetite and sleep, poor school performance, an inability to concentrate, lack of interest and withdrawal from regular social activities. Also look for irritability and agitation in your teen. If the depression lasts longer than two or three weeks, you should really pay close attention.
Be aware of comorbidity
It’s rare for a teen to solely struggle with depression. These symptoms are always part of a bigger picture. Depression and anxiety often come hand-in-hand, and this combination can lead to coping mechanisms like self-harm, eating disorders and substance abuse.
Depression is treatable
Many think that depression and its coexisting problems are difficult to treat, but with the right kind of therapy, mild to moderate depression can handled. The CERTS Group’s residential treatment programs are specifically designed to treat depression and the self-destructive behaviors that result from it. These programs provide intimate therapy sessions and individually-tailored programs to treat your teenage daughter’s specific behaviors.
If you’re worried that your teenager is abusing drugs or alcohol, you know how difficult it is to even cope with the idea, let alone receive confirmation. It can be challenging to notice signs and symptoms of substance abuse in your teen, as these signs are often similar to normal adolescent behavior or mental health issues.
If your child demonstrates several of the symptoms listed below, we strongly recommend that you contact us for a professional assessment. Getting an assessment will help to find out what is really going on as well as make sure your teen is going to be safe and healthy in the future. Your child’s well-being is the most important thing to you, and to us, so we believe it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
The symptoms below are typical signs of drug abuse in teenagers, taken from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’ website:
- Messy, lack of caring about appearance
- Bad hygiene
- Red, flushed cheeks or face
- Track marks on arms or legs, or wearing long sleeves in warm weather to hide marks
- Burns or soot on fingers
- Clenching teeth
- Smell of smoke or other unusual smells on breath or clothes
- Chewing gum or mints often to cover smells
- Heavy use of over-the-counter drugs to reduce eye reddening, nasal irritation or bad breath
- Breaking curfew often
- Cash flow problems
- Reckless driving
- Avoiding eye contact
- Locked doors
- Going out every night
- Secretive phone calls
- Sudden appetite or “munchies”
- Change in relationships with family members or friends
- Loss of inhibitions
- Mood changes or emotional instability
- Loud, annoying behavior
- Laughing at nothing
- Clumsy, stumbling, lack of coordination, poor balance
- Sullen, withdrawn, depressed
- Extremely tired
- Uncommunicative or silent
- Hostile, angry, uncooperative
- Secretive or deceitful
- Endless excuses
- Decreased motivation
- Lethargic movement
- Unable to speak, slurred or rapid speech
- Inability to focus
- Unusually elated
- Sleeplessness or high energy periods, followed by long periods of sleep
- Disappearing for long periods of time
Academic or Work-Related Issues
- Runny nose that isn’t caused by allergies or a cold
- Frequently sick
- Sores, spots around mouth
- Wetting lips or excessive thirst
- Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
- Skin abrasions/bruises
- Accidents or injuries
Home or Car-Related Problems
- Prescription drugs disappearing
- Missing alcohol or cigarettes
- Disappearance of money or valuables
- Smell in the car, or bottles, pipes or bongs on the floor or in glove box
- Appearance of unusual containers or wrappers, or seeds left on surfaces used to clean marijuana
- Appearance of unusual drug apparatuses, like pipes, rolling papers, small medicine bottles, eye drops, butane lighters or makeshift smoking devices, like bongs made from toilet paper rolls and aluminum foil
- Hidden alcohol stashes
How Can Residential Treatment Help My Teenage Daughter?
Residential treatment from the CERTS Group is an intensive level of care that combines 24/7 staffing, experiential therapies specific to overcoming addiction, individual therapy, group therapy and fully accredited education. This treatment is ideal for a young person engaging in dangerous, drug-related behavior, or someone who needs a high level of support for mental or behavioral issues. If you want a more detailed assessment of your child’s situation, call us now at 1-888-406-5968.