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How to Identify the Early Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa In Teens and Young Adults?

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Eating disorders can happen among people of all ages, genders and social backgrounds. However, they develop most commonly in early adulthood and adolescence. In fact, eating disorders in adolescence are so common that around 5.4 percent of kids between the ages of 13 and 18 will develop anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder at some point.

However, the early warning signs of eating disorders in young adults can be difficult for parents and loved ones to recognize. This is because eating disorders like anorexia nervosa typically present slightly differently in young adults and teens than they do in older adults. Additionally, misinformation about eating disorders is still common, even among doctors and other medical professionals. Luckily, there are a few key signs and symptoms of eating disorders that parents can be on the lookout for – along with treatment programs that have been tailored for adolescents at quality centers for eating disorders and other modern recovery centers across the US.

What Are Common Warning Signs of Eating Disorders Such as Anorexia Nervosa in Teens?

There are a variety of different physical and psychological signs of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa that parents can be aware of when it comes to adolescents (and younger children; some cases have been observed as young as age 7). Some eating disorders may cause teens to refuse to eat or maintain a nutritious diet, while others may result in binge eating and purging behaviors.

With anorexia nervosa, teens typically view themselves to be overweight, even though medical and simple common sense viewpoints contradict that. This means that they will engage in restricting behaviors to reduce and eliminate weight gain. As with bulimia nervosa, parents may notice that their children are less likely to eat around others and tend to hide or hoard food.

Other common warning signs of anorexia nervosa in adolescence include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Isolating oneself from friends, family and other social activities
  • Fluctuating weight or consistent weight loss
  • An obsession with dieting, food, calories and body shape
  • Hair loss, skin problems, loosening teeth
  • Frequently being cold even in warm weather
  • Wearing baggy clothes and/or multiple layers to hide weight and body shape
  • Frequent complaints of an upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea or a sore throat

While these are the most common signs of nascent anorexia nervosa in a teenager, it’s important to keep in mind that just as each person is unique, his or her symptoms can be as well. If parents or loved ones suspect that something is wrong, they should speak to the person of concern as soon as possible. Early intervention is key to successful and long-term eating disorder recovery. Many of the symptoms associated with anorexia nervosa can have severe medical and psychological risks, even including death in some severe examples.

What Kind of Treatment Is Best for Teens and Young Adults?

Eating disorders in adolescence should be taken very seriously by family and friends. These are serious mental health conditions that will not just “go away” with time. Untreated, they tend to worsen over time. Luckily, as the medical and psychiatric worlds learn more about eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and recognize that these disorders normally begin in adolescence and young adulthood, specialized eating disorder counseling programs for teens and young adults have been developed.

At many specialized centers for eating disorders, parents can find treatment programs that have been tailored to fit the special needs of adolescents in a comfortable, safe and home-like setting. Whether teens need access to residential treatment, where they will receive medical and psychiatric monitoring before tackling eating disorder counseling, or would be better served in day treatment, there are a number of different options available.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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CARRIE HUNNICUTTWith 20 years of behavioral health business development experience, Carrie combines world-class marketing, media, public relations, outreach and business development with a deep understanding of client care and treatment. Her contributions to the world of behavioral health business development – and particularly eating disorder treatment – go beyond simple marketing; she has actively developed leaders for her organizations and for the industry at large.

Photo by Jasmin Schreiber on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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