Although eating disorders can affect people of all ages, they're often a concern for teenagers. More than 50 percent of teenage girls and more than 33 percent of teenage boys use at least one form of a weight control strategy that is unhealthy, including vomiting. If you're a parent of a teenager, the last thing you want to have your loved one contend with is an eating disorder, especially because an eating disorder in the formative years can have lifelong health repercussions and as many as 50 percent of those with bulimia and anorexia have contemplated suicide. Getting your teen into treatment as soon as you realize that he or she has a problem is paramount, but you have to be able to identify the signs that an eating disorder may be present. Here are some cues.
Eating In His/Her Room
An eating disorder changes the entire way that a person views food, so your teenager may have some new habits concerning how he or she eats. For example, instead of joining the family at mealtime, the teen may ask to eat dinner in his or her room — perhaps under the pretense of being "busy with schoolwork." This privacy will allow the teen to dispose of the food or perhaps binge and purge.
Increased Time Spend Obsessing Over Body Image
Although many teens will be concerned with how they look, it's a red flag when this concern begins to reach the obsession stage. This can manifest through your teenager constantly looking at him or herself in the mirror, buying new clothes that alter his or her appearance and constantly talking to peers about how they look — and how they want to look.
Unexplained Wounds On Knuckles
While a teenager with an eating disorder may be able to purge in secret, the telltale signs are often hard to disguise. Among the signs can be red marks or even open wounds on the child's knuckles; these are caused when the knuckles make repeated contact with the teen's teeth as he or she tries to throw up by placing the fingers in the throat.
A New Interest In Diet Products
It's one thing if an overweight teen shows an interest in dieting, but it's another thing altogether if someone who is of a healthy weight or even who is underweight begins to show interest in diet products. Diet pills, appetite suppressants and other such medication can be easily found at pharmacies and should be a warning sign that your teenager is struggling with an eating disorder. Contact a treatment professional, like Center for Change Eating Disorder Treatments, for help.