What Are Eating Disorders?

Adolescence is a precarious time for a girl, one full of new stresses, raging hormones, and the overwhelming desire to find oneself while also fitting in with their peers. During this phase of a young woman's life, she is the most vulnerable to developing mental health disorders and subsequent coping mechanisms to deal with said disorders. These disorders vary in severity - the more severe mental health issue is, the more devastating implications for their overall development, growth, and sense of well-being. There is currently no group of psychiatric illnesses more common or deadly among teenage girls than eating disorders. 

The most common and dangerous psychiatric disorders plaguing teenage girls today are eating disorders. Whereas depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and others affect teenage boys at similar rates, eating disorders are much higher among girls. 

There are several different types of eating disorders that teenage girls may engage in. If left untreated, eating disorders can cause significant harm to the life of a teenage girl; In extreme cases, they can even result in death. 

The following is a brief look at the three most common eating disorders affecting teenage girls today. We hope that by providing the following article, we at Clearview Girls Academy can help parents detect an eating disorder early on so that they may be able to help their daughter by intervening as early as possible. 

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is among the most common and severe eating disorders affecting teenage girls today. It is classified as an eating condition where the affected person goes to extreme lengths to limit their caloric intake. In severe cases, the person will go to extreme lengths to eat as little food as possible, sometimes going days without eating at all. 

Anorexia is a condition that disproportionately affects teenage girls. According to the latest statistics from the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), females make up 90% of those suffering from Anorexia.  

In most cases, girls with Anorexia suffer from body dysmorphia - possessing a delusional or eschewed view of their body - and are exceedingly fearful of getting 'fat.'  

The need to achieve an unrealistic and unhealthy body composition often leads girls with Anorexia to also exercise excessively, which, among other dangers, can lead to cardiac-related issues.

Anorexia is the third most common psychiatric disorder among teenage girls and has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. 

Signs and symptoms of Anorexia may include:

  • Extreme and severely unhealthy loss in weight; little or no developmental weight gains over long periods
  • Extreme and unhealthily thin appearance
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Bluish discoloration of the fingers
  • Hair that thins breaks or falls out
  • Soft, downy hair covering the body
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Constipation and abdominal pain
  • Dry or yellowish skin
  • Intolerance of cold
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Swelling of arms or legs

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is the second most common eating disorder among teenage girls. It is estimated that 4% of females will develop bulimia in their lifetime - the overwhelming majority of whom will do so during their adolescence. 

Like Anorexia, most Bulimic girls are obsessed with losing extreme amounts of weight and going to severely unhealthy lengths to keep their body weight low. However, instead of simply restricting their caloric intake by abstaining from food, Bulimic girls will binge eat and quickly rid themselves of that food through vomiting or taking laxatives. 

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include: 

  • Constant weight gain or loss 
  • Stomach pain not related to illness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Fainting 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Brittle hair and nails 
  • Discolored teeth 
  • Irregular menstrual periods

Binge Eating Disorder

Teens with binge eating disorder (BED) suffer from diametrically opposed symptoms compared to those of the aforementioned eating conditions on this list. Whereas those with bulimia and anorexia suffer from ailments that cause them to have extreme control over their eating habits, those with BED feel as though they have no control over theirs.

Binge eating disorder is classified as a person eating excessive amounts of food at a time and feeling as though they have little or no control over their eating habits. Unlike bulimics and anorexics, those with binge eating disorders are often overweight.

Although not as severe, binge eating disorder is a critical condition and can lead to dangerous side effects such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. The latter of which kills more Americans than drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and car wrecks combined (650,000 deaths per year).

BED is the latest eating disorder to be classified in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include: 

  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down 
  • Stomach cramps, other non-specific gastrointestinal complaints (constipation, acid reflux, etc.) 
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Feelings of low self-esteem
  • Fear of eating in public or with others
  • Steals or hoards food in strange places  

Treatment for Eating Disorders 

Eating disorders are one of the most dangerous psychiatric disorders affecting teenage girls today. Like most dangerous and severe mental health disorders, extreme eating illnesses typically require more intensive therapy than is traditional, one-on-one therapy sessions. It is recommended for parents of teenage girls afflicted by extreme and dangerous eating conditions to seek out some form of residential treatment program where their daughter can receive the most intensive, round-the-clock therapy available. 

For more immediate assistance, please call us today.