How to detect eating disorders (in adolescents)
With the arrival of summer, come the complexes and especially among young people and adolescents , they are related to their physicality. These can lead to eating problems, extreme and/or miraculous diets, destructive behaviours, ingestion of “medicines”…
In this article we will look at some warning signs, not alarm signs, so that we can detect a possible eating disorder early .
What are the most common eating disorders among young people?
But first we will define in broad terms the two disorders that most concern parents of adolescents :
1. Anorexia nervosa
Is the refusal to maintain a normal weight according to age and height . An intense fear of gaining weight even if it is below the ideal weight, a distortion of one’s body image and a denial of the disease. It often results in amenorrhea (absence of the menstrual period).
2. Bulimia nervosa
It refers to the p excessive reoccupation with food that results in repeated episodes of excessive food intake as well as the practice of extreme measures to control weight (vomiting, laxative abuse, consumption of drugs, fasting,…)-
We must bear in mind that these disorders do not only result from poorly acquired eating habits, but also from a combination of emotional, family, social and cultural factors.
The importance of prevention
Both eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia) and obesity are problems where prevention is very important in order to avoid them . They are really serious disorders and it is important that we know that their consequences are very negative and that they affect all areas: personal, physical, social, emotional, discrimination, malnutrition…
Behaviors and signs that someone has an eating disorder
There are some behaviors and behaviors that can alert us that something is not right . Below are some warning signs, although if we detect any of them, it will be essential not to be alarmed and to go to a professional for guidance and advice.
Warning (non-alarm) signals
- Voluntary restriction of high-calorie foods
- Decreased or excessive water or fluid consumption
- Strange behaviors related to the habit of eating: eating standing up, cutting food into small pieces, when you finish looking for pretexts to get moving…
- Increased physical activity or even compulsive exercise
- Increased study hours
- Decreased sleep
- Irritability and mood swings
- Depressive symptoms
- Excessive weight concern
- Disorder of your image
- Denial of feelings of hunger, thirst, sleep and fatigue
- Disinterest in leisure activities
- Food storage in different places
- Intensive consumption of sugar-free gum
- Excessive use of tobacco to decrease food cravings
- Refusal of social meals
- Self-induced vomiting
- Declining school performance
- Denial of disease
- Concentration and learning difficulty
- Feeling of guilt
- Low self-esteem
- Intense social life with intervals of isolation
Guidelines for Helping an Adolescent with Worrying Symptoms
It will be necessary, at all times, to support the adolescent , let’s not forget that the person who suffers from some of these disorders is suffering a very difficult emotional situation and will need the support of his/her environment and especially of the parents and family.
They tend to have low self-esteem that makes them feel uninteresting, which creates great insecurity and high states of anxiety. In addition, they often have social problems, may feel isolated, be teased by friends, or feel under excessive pressure. Parents and families should prevent children from feeling that their physical appearance is the most important thing for their successful development in society.
Individual, family and social support
Therefore, what parents should do is to strengthen those factors that will protect the child and future adolescent from these, and other disorders:
- , to promote family cohesion , to offer good models of conduct, to expose cultural values on corporal beauty in accordance with health, to promote self-esteem, self-confidence and self-efficacy, to offer social resources and to allow them to solve problems, to be aware of and adjust parental expectations…
- To promote good eating habits , as well as the knowledge of the need to maintain a good diet and to foster self-esteem and self-confidence. These will be the essential basics.
- Sharing meals with the children , explaining the consequences of a bad diet, teaching them good eating habits and schedules from an early age, building with them their self-esteem, so that they feel capable of assuming the problems and concerns, promoting understanding and trust between parent and child, not judging or blaming the children … parents and children should share their interest in a good diet and parents should be the appropriate models to follow.
We cannot demand what we do not do, that is, if parents eat badly or in a disorganized way, they cannot ask their children to have good eating habits, since it is the parents who are responsible for teaching them the right guidelines.
If we are able to carry out these guidelines and advice, we will be able to help the young person with eating problems. But it will also be essential to have professional support in order to tackle the causes of the disorder .