of gaining weight or becoming fat, and a distorted view of one’s body image – such as reporting being fat when clearly they’re not! Sometimes teens with Anorexia Nervosa use fasting, diets, or excessive exercise to achieve weight loss and sometimes they use other means of getting rid of calories such as purging, using laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or any sort of “slimming” teas or pills.
Bulimia Nervosa involves recurrent episodes of “binge eating” and “purging”. Let’s take a moment and define what each of those are. Binge eating is when someone eats a much larger portion of food in a small amount of time than they usually would (e.g. a medium pizza, bag of chips, and a box of donuts within 2 hours). Binge eating involves a feeling that one has lost control and cannot stop eating or control how much they’re eating. Purging can mean more than just self-induced vomiting. Purging within this context means any means possible to expel calories. This includes excessive exercise, laxatives, diuretics, other weight-loss medications, or fasting. Just like anorexia nervosa, those suffering from bulimia nervosa often feel intense negative evaluation related to their shape and weight. It is a frightening cycle that family members are often not aware of.
Binge-Eating Disorder has long been the topic of discussion, however only recently became part of the DSM-V (the manual used to diagnose mental illness). Binge-Eating Disorder is the fasted growing eating disorder! Just like with bulimia nervosa, people with binge-eating disorder engage in episodes where the total caloric intake exceeds what is typical or normal for an average person. Adolescents often feel uncomfortably full, eat when they’re not hungry, eat alone, hide food due to embarrassment, and/or feel disgusted, guilty, and depressed about their behavior.
There are a few other types of eating disorders that are defined as “Other Specific Feeding or Eating Disorder). Those include the following:
Atypical Anorexia Nervosa: (all the behaviors of anorexia nervosa, but weight hasn’t dropped below a normal range….yet)
Bulimia Nervosa of low frequency or limited duration: behaviors occur less than once per week
Binge-eating disorder with low frequency or limited duration: behaviors occur less than once per week
Purging Disorder: Purging (remember all that purging entails!) without binge eating
Night Eating Syndrome: Excessive nighttime eating that causes distress or affects sleep/wake cycles.
What do I do if I suspect my teen has an eating disorder?
First and foremost….don’t wait!! Eating disorders are the most deadly mental illness, with a mortality rate of 20%! Set up an appointment with a therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders as well as you teen’s pediatrician. Communicate your concern that you believe your child has an eating disorder and provide reasons why. Often times teens will outright deny symptoms, so it is up to you to be watchful. If you notice them going to the bathroom immediately after meals, anxious around meals, refusing to eat, food missing or hidden in strange places, pushing food around or taking much longer to eat than everyone else, weight loss or gain, obsession with exercise and weight/shape – these are all indicators that something may be wrong. Don’t ignore your instinct!
How can we help?
Integrated Care Clinic employs a team of specialists that have worked with clients with eating disorders for years. Our staff are trained on the Maudsley Approach (AKA Family Based Treatment) – the most effective treatment for adolescent eating disorders. Studies have been shown to support Maudsley over residential treatment! It is important when choosing a provider and treatment team that they are experts in eating disorders, as the recovery rates for some eating disorders are very low (50%!), you need all the help you can get! Additionally, the earlier you seek out treatment for your son or daughter the better the outcomes! Remember, you did not cause your child’s eating disorder! Call us today to get the support you and your child need to overcome this deadly illness.