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Eating Disorders

What Are Eating Disorders? - Eating Disorders Overview
An eating disorder is marked by extremes. It is present when a person experiences severe disturbances in eating behavior, such as extreme reduction of food intake or extreme overeating, or feelings of extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape.

A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more spirals out of control. Eating disorders are very complex, and despite scientific research to understand them, the biological, behavioral and social underpinnings of these illnesses remain elusive.

The two main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. A third category is "eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS)," which includes several variations of eating disorders. Most of these disorders are similar to anorexia or bulimia but with slightly different characteristics. Binge-eating disorder, which has received increasing research and media attention in recent years, is one type of EDNOS.

Eating disorders frequently appear during adolescence or young adulthood, but some reports indicate that they can develop during childhood or later in adulthood. Women and girls are much more likely than males to develop an eating disorder. Men and boys account for an estimated 5 to 15 percent of patients with anorexia or bulimia and an estimated 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorder. Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses with complex underlying psychological and biological causes. They frequently co-exist with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. Teens with eating disorders also can suffer from numerous other physical health complications, such as heart conditions or kidney failure, which can lead to death.

Is Your Teen Struggling with Anorexia or Bulimia? << back to top
Adolescents, primarily teenagers are a population of individuals who struggle with eating disorders, including Anorexia and Bulimia. During the teen years, the developmental changes, both hormonal and physical are often quick, drastic, and unexpected. Weight gain is a common physical change. Some teens may already be struggling with weight issues, prior to entering high school. Weight gain or loss is a common topic of discussion and focus for teenagers. Obsession over weight issues often results in eating disorders and compulsive addictive behaviors.

Teens often hold themselves to a standard for appearance, based on their peers and the media. Teen boys are often trying to gain weight, as they look forward to growth spurts, and prepare for young adulthood. Sports such as wrestling and football, often increase pressure or stress for teen boys to gain or lose weight.

Teen girls are the most targeted population for marketing purposes. In advertisements, thin models promote products. Advertisements include magazines, music videos, television commercials, infomercials, billboards, and newspapers. During a time when a teen girl might be struggling with unexpected weight gain, due to hormonal changes and physical changes in height, she is also struggling with a world in which media and marketing are inescapable, and thin underweight girls are promoted as an acceptable teen image.

Inevitably, some teenagers develop poor body images and attempt to cope with life problems and/or the pressure to obtain a particular weight, by reducing food and calorie intake, leading to Anorexia. Some teens binge and purge, allowing an opportunity to consume food but also purging it from the body, leading to Bulimia. These behaviors become addictive and compulsive. These behaviors may also become life-threatening.

Anorexia Nervosa << back to top
Anorexia is an eating disorder where the main characteristic is the restriction of food and the refusal to maintain a minimal, normal body weight. Any actual gain or even perceived gain of weight, is met with intense fear by the Anorexic. Not only is there a true feeling of fear, but also once in the grasp of the disorder, Anorexics experience body image distortions. Those areas of the body usually representing maturity or sexuality including the buttocks, hips, thighs and breast are visualized by the Anorexic as being fat. For some Anorexics, weight loss is so severe there is a loss of menses (failure to menstruate.) In the obsessive pursuit of thinness, Anorexics participate in restrictive dieting, compulsive exercise, and laxative and diuretic abuse.

According to some studies, teens with anorexia are up to ten times more likely to die as a result of their illness compared to those without the disorder. The most common complications that lead to death are cardiac arrest, and electrolyte and fluid imbalances. Suicide also can result.

Many teens with anorexia also have coexisting psychiatric and physical illnesses, including depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, substance abuse, cardiovascular and neurological complications, and impaired physical development.

Other symptoms may develop over time, including:
thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
brittle hair and nails
dry and yellowish skin
growth of fine hair over body (e.g., lanugo)
mild anemia, and muscle weakness and loss
severe constipation
low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse
drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time lethargy

1- Restoring the person to a healthy weight
2- Treating the psychological issues related to the eating disorder; and
3- Reducing or eliminating behaviors or thoughts that lead to disordered eating, and preventing relapse

Different forms of psychotherapy, including individual, group and family-based, can help address the psychological reasons for the illness. Some studies suggest that family-based therapies in which parents assume responsibility for feeding their afflicted adolescent are the most effective in helping a person with anorexia gain weight and improve eating habits and moods. Shown to be effective in case studies and clinical trials, this particular approach is discussed in some guidelines and studies for treating eating disorders in younger, nonchronic patients. Others have noted that a combined approach of medical attention and supportive psychotherapy designed spe-cifically for anorexia patients is more effective than just psychotherapy. But the effectiveness of a treatment depends on the teen involved and his or her situation.

Bulimia Nervosa << back to top
Bulimics are caught in the devastating and addictive binge purge cycle. The Bulimic eats compulsively and then purges through self induced vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, ipecac, strict diets, fasts, chew spitting, vigorous exercise, or other compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain. Binges usually consist of the consumption of large amounts of food in a short period of time. Binge eating disorders usually occurs in secret. Bulimics, like Anorexics, are also obsessively involved with their body shape and weight.

Unlike anorexia, teens with bulimia can fall within the normal range for their age and weight. But like teens with anorexia, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Usually, bulimic behavior is done secretly, because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binging and purging cycle usually repeats several times a week. Similar to anorexia, teens with bulimia often have coexisting psychological illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and/or substance abuse problems. Many physical conditions result from the purging aspect of the illness, including electrolyte imbalances, gastrointestinal problems, and oral and tooth-related problems.

Other symptoms include:
chronically inflamed and sore throat
swollen glands in the neck and below the jaw
worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acids
gastroesophageal reflux disorder
intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
kidney problems from diuretic abuse
severe dehydration from purging of fluids

As with anorexia, TREATMENT FOR BULIMIA often involves a combination of options and depends on the needs of each teen

To reduce or eliminate binge and purge behavior, a patient may undergo nutritional counseling and psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or be prescribed medication. Some antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), which is the only medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating bulimia, may help patients who also have depression and/or anxiety. It also appears to help reduce binge-eating and purging behavior, reduces the chance of relapse, and improves eating attitudes.

CBT that has been tailored to treat bulimia also has shown to be effective in changing binging and purging behavior, and eating attitudes. Therapy may be individually oriented or group-based.

Binge-Eating Disorder/ Compulsive Overeating << back to top
Binge-eating disorder is characterized by recurrent binge-eating episodes during which a person feels a loss of control over his or her eating. Unlike bulimia, binge-eating episodes are not followed by purging, excessive exercise or fasting. As a result, teens with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. They also experience guilt, shame and/or distress about the binge-eating, which can lead to more binge-eating.

Obese teens with binge-eating disorder often have coexisting psychological illnesses including anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. In addition, links between obesity and cardiovascular disease and hypertension are well documented.

TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR BINGE-EATING DISORDER are similar to those used to treat bulimia. Fluoxetine and other antidepressants may reduce binge-eating episodes and help alleviate depression in some patients.

Patients with binge-eating disorder also may be prescribed appetite suppressants. Psychotherapy, especially CBT, is also used to treat the underlying psychological issues associated with binge-eating, in an individual or group environment.

Exercise Anorexia and Exercise Bulimia << back to top
For years, anorexic behaviors and bulimia behaviors have been disguised with exercise. Excessive exercise includes exercise in the home or gym, running (marathons included), weight lifting(ie weight trainer, personal training), and excessive sports. Weight loss and poor nutrition is often associated with this behavior.

Eating Disorders and Co-existing Addictions and Treatment << back to top
Eating Disorders is an addiction that often accompanies or “co-exists” with drug and/or alcohol addiction. It is common for teens abusing prescription drugs to also use the prescription drug as an appetite suppressant. It is unknown as to whether the eating disorder leads to a drug addiction or if it is the drug addiction that leads to an eating disorder, so the clinical, medical, and therapeutic approach is to treat both addictions.

Teens who have historically struggled with weight gain, are often comfortable with a lowered body weight that may accompany drug addiction. Once the drug addiction is in the recovery phase, it is common to switch addictions to and eating disorder, sometimes to maintain a lower body weight. Teens struggling with anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive eating are secretive about their behaviors, usually feeling shame or guilt. Eating disorders are also a way to exert more control in a recovering individual’s life.

Alcohol, drugs, anorexic behaviors, bulimic behaviors, and compulsive eating behaviors are often abused for the same reasons. Teens usually lacking adequate coping skills abuse drugs and alcohol to avoid feelings and emotions.

Teen eating disorder, teen alcohol addiction, teen drug addiction, and teen prescription drug addiction have high relapse rates. Therefore, a recovery program should also include identifying each teens’s triggers for both the eating disorder and the substance addiction. Education on the “relapse cycle” is imperative for the greatest chance of a recovery program without relapse. Unfortunately, relapse is often a part of the recovery cycle. The recovering individual should seek immediate help and treatment if necessary. Guilt and shame are not necessary or helpful, as relapse can provide a positive aspect in that it provides opportunities to gather additional tools for recovery and increase awareness as to the need for targeted therapeutic issues.

Each type of teen eating disorder treatment program has its own advantages. Including parents in the teen's treatment is critical to success, so a good treatment program includes parents and family in their therapy programs .

When choosing a treatment program, it's important to ensure that the program is specifically for teens due to their developmental needs. Also, if the teen has substance abuse issues, the facility should be able to treat them at the same time. Some adolescent treatment centers provide along side addiction treatment an educational program which will help your child in keeping their school credits while away from home in a treatment center.

Some specialized addiction treatment facilities for teens, offer extra-curricular activities such as sports and special outings. These types of activities will help teens complete the treatment and will positively influence teen’s social behavior like team play skills, trust in others, sense of responsibility and self confidence.

So talk to a counselor or therapist and ask questions about the staff, the facility and the treatment programs offered. Choosing the right treatment facility is the most important step in choosing the right treatment.

Most parents recognize when their child needs help. If you have a teen struggling with eating disorder issues please seek help. Prevent a tragic outcome. Don't let your child become a statistic.

Teen Drug Rehab Centers can guide you in the right direction in choosing an adolescent rehabilitation center that will provide the treatment and therapies specifically related to your child’s needs. If your doctor has recommended that your teen stay in an inpatient/residential addiction treatment program, we can help you get admitted. Give us a call at 1-888-610-2046 and we will help identify the most suitable treatment program for your child.

Content compiled above is intended for informational use only and it does not endorse or recommend services available in this site.

Information throughout this site is courtesy of:

teen eating disorders treatment, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating
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What Are Eating Disorders?
Is Your Teen Struggling with Anorexia or Bulimia?
Anorexia Nervosa
Bulimia Nervosa
Binge-Eating Disorder /Compulsive Overeating
Exercise Anorexia and Exercise Bulimia
Eating Disorders and Co-Existing Addictions and Treatment
Teen Eating Disorders News
Need Eating Disorder
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