How-To SPOT & HELP Eating disorder in your teenager

Eating disorder in your teenager

Eating disorder in your teenager:  As a mother I am always worried about my teen’s health and their diet.  Like me, I am sure you can also feel the same thing about your teens’ food habits.

Due to hormonal changes or biological changes, at some point during the teenage years, almost all parents face this difficulty with their teens’ health and diet.

Disturbed patterns of eating in teens is very common these days. Maybe you find no apparent cause of changes in eating patterns in your teen. You maybe worried also about how to give your teen a balanced diet. Additionally, you may also wonder how to motivate your teen towards a balance diet?

If you really want to solve the issue of eating disorder of your teen then you should must know how to spot an eating disorder in your teen.

During teenage years there are different kinds of eating disorder present. Educate yourself about these types of eating disorder and how you can solve the issue of eating disorder.


Eating disorder in your teenager

10 Worrying facts you should know about.

I have listed below few of the facts that got me worried. Facts that got me thinking and pushed me to write about eating disorder.

I always believe that when you have your facts right it helps you to have a better conversation with your teenager on the subject.

It is one of the effective ways to drive home a point and show to your teenager how important the topic of eating disorder in your teenager is.

  1. Among mental illnesses, eating disorder has the highest mortality rate.1
  2. Almost around 13% of women over 50 fall prey to eating disorder behaviors.2
  3. There is one death every 62 minutes because of eating disorder.3
  4. Youngsters between the ages of 15 and 24 who have anorexia have 10 times more risk of dying as compared to their friends and peers of the same age. 4
  5. The idealization of thinness as the epitome of beauty is the most known environmental contributor for people to develop eating disorders. 5
  6. Girls start to express concerns of their body weight by the time they are 6 yrs old. And 40-60% of of them are worried that they will become fat. If not checked and healthy body image is restored, they carry this concern throughout life. 6
  7. One of the common characteristics of an individual who is struggling from eating disorder is Low self-esteem. 7
  8. Children who have mothers who are very concerned about their weight follow the same behaviour and display unhealthy attitudes to body shape and image and weight.8
  9. Almost Two-thirds of people who have anorexia actually showed signs and symptoms years earlier before the setting of their eating disorder. 9
  10. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is displayed by approximately one in four people who have eating disorder. 9

Most of these facts points to other issues that are common among teenagers. To get more insights into this matter click the link given Parenting Challenges Faced while raising Teenager’s and browse for more.

3 Common types of eating disorders in Teenagers

We have listed below some common eating disorder in teenagers. And causes and symptoms to look out for to spot Eating disorder in your teenager.

There are other eating disorders like avoidant / restrictive food disorder, Rumination disorder and Pica. But they are usually in other age groups such as infants, childhood, pregnancy etc..

We have highlighted only the most prevalent eating disorders in teenagers.

Eating disorder in your teenager


Anorexia is type of eating disorder in which teens usually want to maintain weight that is below average to their height and age.

In this type of eating disorder usually teens have excessive fear about gaining weight , and because of this they ignore balanced diet and usually starve themselves.

Usually anorexia is diagnosed in girls more than boys .

Cause & Symptoms;

  • Studies shows that main cause of anorexia in teens is perfectionism.
  • Our social media platforms these days promote beauty standards by showing thin models and actress. Teens are at an age where their peers and media influence them.
  • Teens who are usually too sensitive about how they look , tend to develop anorexia condition.
  • Symptoms of Anorexia in teens is to stay underweight.
  • Girls with anorexia condition can face irregular or missing periods.
  • Teens usually hide this condition from their parents so that they are not forced by parents to eat.

Health risk of Anorexia

Teens with this condition are more likely face to several disorders like heart problems, dry skin and hair, osteoporosis, weakness, stomach problem and kidney disorders, malnutrition and anemia.


Bulimia is a eating disorder in which teens eat more than normal and then try to get rid of extra calories.

Usually they eat a lot at first. We can say they engage with bingeing (A condition in which a person eats more than normal). After getting extra calories they try to burn calories or get rid of food from their body by different methods.

The methods involve self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise or running for hours.

Causes & symptoms

  • This condition is also mostly diagnosed in girls.
  • Teens with bulimia are also very sensitive about gaining weight.
  • For this purpose they can also use pills like laxatives or any other diet pills to control their weight.
  • Your teen disappears right after meals to bathroom and you hear sounds of vomiting. Or running tap water. You see a pattern emerging after every meal or food intake.
  • You find them eating well but you see them exercising obsessively. And talking about fearing of gaining weight.
  • If we talk about symptoms of bulimia, the teens with this kind of eating disorder usually have variation in their weight , weight may go up and down in a person with bulimia.

Binge Eating disorder

Teens with binge disorders usually consume calories more than normal. They eat a lot of food in short time frame.

Teens with binge disorder lack control of calories consumption.

On the contrary, unlike teens with bulimia disorder they consume extra calories but don’t try to get rid of food from their bodies.

Causes and symptoms

  • A teen with binge disorder may have anxiety, boredom, trouble with coping anger and depression or sadness.
  • Teens with this order tend to become obese over time.
  • A teen with this order often try dieting but end with no result.
  • A binge teen usually eat a lot in secret or tries to hide or hoard food.
  • You keep finding food being stolen and sometimes in large quantities.  Especially junk food or sweets.
  • Check for food items in their room. Or covers and wrappers of the food item hidden at different places in their room.
  • A teen with binge disorder may eat normally in front of everyone. But may eat a lot in private or in their rooms.
  • They feel they can’t control their binge eating. They eat even when they are full or stuffed.

Health risk of binge

 A teen with this disorder can face health related problems in future like, high blood pressure, overweight, High cholesterol and stomach problems.

Few common tell tale signs of Eating disorder in your teenager

  1. If your normal healthy eater suddenly changes to become a very picky eater, avoids meals or makes excuses to have food with family.
  2. You find them obsessing over weight, calories, and counting calorie intake.
  3. Your teen displays negative body image issues, spending lot of time in front of mirror and preoccupied with weight related issues.
  4. Teens like to dress up well and appear smart. However, when there is Eating disorder in your teenager, you find them trying to cover up their weight issues (gain or loss) by wearing multiple layers of cloths or very loose cloths.
  5. Your teen shows physical signs such as recolored teeth or sore throat, upset stomach issues.
  6. Find out reasons if you feel you teen’s weight gain or loss is erratic and not normal or gradual.
  7. You spot strange medicines or medicine covers appearing in your trash. Medicines such as diet pills, laxatives, enemas and other illegal or non recognisable drugs.

15 Important things Parents must Know

Eating disorder in your teenager
  1. Remember Eating disorder in your teenager is something that is to be taken very seriously. Should not be taken as kids only trying to skip a meal or two.
  2. Don’t threaten or blackmail or give ultimatums to your teen. It will only make them more anxious and they will start hiding things from you.
  3. Do not judge them or blame them for the issue. It’s not as simple as having to “just start eating”
  4. Physical health plays a key role in teens’ overall well being. A teen with good physical health tends to be more successful in life. On the other hand, teens with compromised health become unable to perform their daily activities.
  5. Symptoms can be identified I’m the early stages itself. Therefore, you can take steps in advance to develop a good physical health in your teens.
  6. As a parent, Eating disorder in your teenager can become a difficult task to handle, but it’s not impossible at all. And is easy if you spot it early.
  7. Motivate your teens to take part in physical activities that are good for their health. Motivate them to take part in sports activities. Outdoor play if possible.
  8. It is common belief that when someone has eating disorder, they are normally very very thin. Or too obese. But in relatity it need not necessarly be so. 
  9. Do not comment on their appearance or compare them with their friends and peers. Your comments will slice though their tender heart.
  10. Try to provide a good and healthy, stress free environment to your teen.
  11. With good strategies and setting a good example you can build a good healthy attitude in your teen.
  12. Eating disorder in your teenager is not something only parents of teenage girls need to worry about. It is shown that this affects all class, sex and race of people.
  13. If you are feeling concerned or feel something is not normal. Bring up it directly. Trust your instinct and seek help.
  14. People who have eating disorder are usually afraid to speak it out and ask for help. It can be because they don’t know how to start the topic or they have such low self esteem that they believe they are not worthy of anyone’s help.
  15. But in case you find any kind of disorder, you can take medical assistance as well as you can provide your personal attention to your child’s problem.

12 ways you can help with eating disorder in your teenager

Once you notice or spot out any kind of eating disorder in your teenager, you can follow some of the tips give below as a broad guide with regard to diet..

However, these are what worked for the people I know. And each case is different. My sincere advice is to go for a general check up and talk to your doctor about your concerns for further guidance.

#1 Educate your teen about healthy diet

First thing you can do is providing enough knowledge about balanced diet to your teen. To do that educate yourself well on this topic first. And be ready for some denial, when you start talking about it for the first time.

If you face denial, keep the talk light for the first time and tell them foods that are necessary for their well being .

Encourage them to take calories according to a proper diet , don’t eat less and don’t eat more than normal.

You can also seek the help of a nutritionist for a balanced diet chart according to your teen’s physical health.

Read about how to get your family to embrace nutrition in our article All you need to know about kids’ nutrition

#2 Tell them consequences of eating disorders

Clearly discuss consequences of eating disorder with your teen. Give them the statistics we have outlined above to drive home the point.

Guide them on how risky eating disorders are for their future health.

Tell them health risks related to their eating disorder. From this , they will become be aware about their diet.

#3 Be patient

Once you spot the eating disorder in your teen , don’t become aggressive or frustrated. You must show patience about this matter as you can’t get back things to normal overnight.

These symptoms will be shown years earlier before it becomes a disorder. So, catch it early for quick recovery.

#4 Show your love and affection

Tell your teens you love them no matter what`s going on. Show them your affection and care. Show them your love when they need you most.

This helps them feel secure in your love. And they will slowly move away from associating body image to love received.

This also helps in increasing bonding with your teen. Know other ways of increasing bonding by reading our article How-To Easily build Emotional Connection with your Teenager

#5 Listen to your teens

Get your Point Across to Your Teenager

Try to discuss things with your teen related to their problems. Listen to them with attention, try to know about their feelings .

Try to know about things related to their health issues. This will give you some insights into their thought process and their stressors.

Read our article How-To HELP & EASE stress in your teenager to know more about the issue.

#6 Don`t always talk about physical appearance of your child

As we discuss physical appearance contribute a lot in teens physical health. Many teen thinks that they will get their desired appearance by adopting eating behaviour.

For this reason, try to avoid discussions about physical appearances all the time. Encourage them to not only focus about physical health. Teach them that there’s more to life than just how you look.

Do check if you are obsessing over it yourself or someone close to your teen is.

#7 Guide teens about media life

As we know, these days our teens spend their most of time on social media. You can’t prevent your child from going online these days .

The only thing you can do is to guide your teen about negative influence of media. Tell them reality is different than social media and media is not always real .

Read our article How to Get your Point Across to Your Teenager to have a effective conversation.

Educate them that people have different shapes and colour.

#8 Try to build self-esteem of your teen

Praise your teens for their accomplishments. Tell them looks don`t matter when a person has ability and confidence to do anything.

Talk to them on why they feel that they need to look thin. What do they think will happen if they are fat. Debunk some of the ideal image issues they might have.

Encourage teens about self-confidence and about their self-esteem.

Read more about self-confidence and how to build it in our article How to develop self-confidence in your teenager

#9 Set yourself as an example

You can motivate your teen by example through your physical health and from your self-confidence.

You can be a role model for your child by taking care of your health. Your teen will automatically get inspiration from you and try to maintain good health.

#10 Monitor your child’s health

Take care of your child’s physical health and monitor the changes in their habits and daily routines activities. Keenly observe if you notice any disorder like constipation, arrhythmia or any menstrual irregularities and any tooth related problems.

#11 Motivate your teen towards Exercise and Meditation

 As we all know, exercise and meditation help in reducing stress and anxiety. Exercise and mediation can also contribute a lot to the physical health of your teen. Tell them how they can get help from these physical activities. Encourage them to maintain a healthy life style with their attributes.

#12 Keep an eye on your teenagers’s social circle.

Teenagers have a need to fit in. And they are also heavily influenced by their peer group’s outlook of life .

As parents keep an eye on your teenager’s social circle so you will get an idea on what they priorities are.

If their close associates and friends are obsessed with body image and you find your teenager slowly turning out to be a picky eater it should ring some alarm bells for you.

Read our article on How-to help your teen to choose right friends To help you in your journey.

Its Video Time:

Eating Disorder Presentation and treatment

Eating Disorder: Presentation and treatment


At the end I want conclude things by saying that a healthy lifestyle and good care of a child’s overall health can prevent parent and teen, both, from eating disorders.

Moreover, with proper guidance and knowledge you can motivate your teen towards good physical health.

With time spent with your teen and helping them to develop positive body image and loving them unconditionally, you will soon have a very healthy and confident adult.

God Bless!!..

If you like our article show love by sharing it with your friends and family.

Let us know if you faced issues with Eating disorder in your teenager. How did you go about facing it? Leave your comments below..


I like to make a disclaimer here. I am not a medical practitioner. You can read more about me, my qualification and experience or that of my team in our About Us page.

However, I am a mother of growing 3 kids. Am a concerned parent.

I like to share my knowledge with the hope that it will be of help to someone somewhere and make a difference to a very worried parent.

I have written this article, based on my experience, my talk with experts in this line and research on this topic.

Also, I like to emphasize that this is only for knowledge sharing and information purpose.

If you wish to know more on our disclaimer. The link is in the footer of this page.


[1] Smink, F. E., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2012). Epidemiology of eating disorders: Incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports,14(4), 406-414.

[2] Gagne, D. A., Von Holle, A., Brownley, K. A., Runfola, C. D., Hofmeier, S., Branch, K. E., & Bulik, C. M. (2012). Eating disorder symptoms and weight and shape concerns in a large web‐based convenience sample of women ages 50 and above: Results of the gender and body image (GABI) study. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45(7), 832-844.


[4] Smink, F. E., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2012). Epidemiology of eating disorders: Incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports, 14(4), 406-414.

[5] Culbert, K. M., Racine, S. E., & Klump, K. L. (2015). Research Review: What we have learned about the causes of eating disorders – a synthesis of sociocultural, psychological, and biological research. J Child Psychol Psychiatry, 56(11), 1141-1164. 

[6] Smolak, L. (2011). Body image development in childhood. In T. Cash & L. Smolak (Eds.),  Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention (2nd ed.).New York: Guilford. 

[7] The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. Food for Thought: Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) Columbia University; New York: 2003.

[8] Andreyeva, T., Puhl, R. M. and Brownell, K. D. (2008), Changes in Perceived Weight Discrimination Among Americans, 1995–1996 Through 2004–2006. Obesity, 16: 1129–1134. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.35

[9] Tagay, S., Schlottbohm, E., Reyes-Rodriguez, M. L., Repic, N., & Senf, W. (2014). Eating disorders, trauma, PTSD, and psychosocial resources. Eating disorders, 22(1), 33-49.

Thabitha David

Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Friend. She is a MBA Graduate specialized in Human Resources. She is a very proud mother of 3 Kids. (2 Teens & 1 Tween). She is a keen Observer of Life and is a blogger. She writes these articles based on her experience (Success and Failures). She does this with hope to help and ease the pain of at-least one parent as they face the challenges of parenting. Read more from the About Us Page

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