Signs of Eating Disorders in Teenage Girls

Many teenage girls struggle with eating disorders.

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
  • Purging
  • 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

Anorexia Nervosa

  • 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

Bulimia Nervosa

  • 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
  • Fatigue

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.”