Eating Disorders

During your teenage years, your ideas about the person you are (and the person you want to be) start to take shape, both inside and out. Of course it’s normal to care about what you look like, but too many times, outward appearance – particularly regarding weight – becomes an obsession for teens. Some teenagers worry about their weight so much they eventually develop an eating disorder. Three of the most common eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Symptoms include:

  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body type, age, and activity level

  • Intense fear of weight gain or being “fat”

  • Feeling “fat” or overweight despite dramatic weight loss

  • Loss of menstrual periods

  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by a secretive cycle of binge eating followed by purging. In other words, that means a person eats large amounts of food in short periods of time then rids the body of the food and calories through vomiting, laxative abuse, or over exercising. Symptoms include:

  • Repeated episodes of bingeing and purging

  • Feeling out of control during a binge and eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness

  • Purging after a binge (typically by self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, diet pills and/or diuretics, excessive exercise, or fasting)

  • Frequent dieting

  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape

Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating without purging. Symptoms include:

  • Eating without being hungry, often times without control of how much or how often food is consumed

  • Eating faster than normal and not stopping when full

  • Eating alone or in secrecy

  • Binges may be planned in advance, involving the purchase of special binge foods and the allocation of specific time for binging, sometimes at night

  • Binge eating occurs at least once a week for three months

  • Eating alone or secrecy due to embarrassment over the amount of food consumed

  • Being “zoned out” during a binge and/or not being able to recall what was eaten afterwards

  • Feeling guilty, disgusted, or ashamed after the binge

Eating disorders are serious and should not be overlooked or underestimated. About 70 million individuals in the world suffer from an eating disorder, and they can be deadly. Teens and those in their twenties make up the majority of anorexia or bulimia cases, but these eating disorders can occur at any age and aren’t just a “girl thing.” In fact, 10% of those who suffer from these disorders are male. Eating disorders are serious at any age and can cause a number of health problems and can even lead to death.

Did you know? (Source: SADD)

  • More than 5 million Americans experience eating disorders.

  • Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are diseases that affect both the mind and body.

  • About 3% of women and 1% of men have anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder.

  • A young woman with anorexia is 12 times more likely to die than a women her age without anorexia.

  • About 15% of young women have substantially disordered eating attitudes and behaviors.

  • Between 10-15% of those diagnosed with bulimia nervosa are men.

  • Some 40% of fourth graders report they diet either “very often” or “sometimes.”

  • About half of those with anorexia or bulimia have a full recovery, 30% have a partial recovery, and 20% have no substantial improvement.

  • After puberty in the United States, 5-10 million girls and women, and 1 million boys and men, struggle with eating disorders.

  • Approximately 90-95% of anorexia nervosa sufferers are girls and women.

  • Between 1-2% of American women suffer from anorexia nervosa.

  • Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in young women.

  • Anorexia nervosa typically appears in early to mid-adolescence.

  • Bulimia nervosa affects 1-3% of middle and high school girls, and 1-4% of college age women.

  • About 80% of bulimia nervosa patients are female.

Eating disorders cause a number of health problems and can even lead to death. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, don’t face the problem alone. You can get help at your local Safe Place, or you can look for other support, such as teachers, guidance counselors, hotlines, and family members.

Websites to Visit
Check out these websites for more information about eating disorders:


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