Eating Disorders are Prevalent among Teenage Girls and Boys, but Recovery is Possible

eating disorder concept, woman' hand tied with measuring tape

Eating disorders affect about 30 million people in the US. And it appears that these conditions aren’t exclusive for girls; boys can have them, too. In fact, The Family Institute at Northwestern University reports that about three percent of teenagers aged 13 to 18 years struggle with food, weight, and body issues that often lead to an eating disorder.

Girls, As Well As Boys, May Have Anorexia Nervosa

Eating disorders can be life-threatening. They can impact both the physical and mental health of a person, that’s why girls and boys suffering from the likes of anorexia nervosa need the proper treatment.

A study by the San Diego State University (SDSU) found that there were no gender differences in any eating disorder the researchers assessed. Upon evaluation, the researchers concluded that nearly 1.4 percent of the 4,500 boys and girls (from a national database) developed eating disorders.

Another study, however, pointed out that the rates of eating disorders between teenage girls and boys weren’t that far. About 50 percent of teenage girls and 30 percent of teenage boys skip meals, fast, smoke cigarettes, throw up, and use laxatives to manage their weight.

While these aren’t always signs of an eating disorder, they are unhealthy food-related behavior. It may look like normal behavior for teens, but it might lead to something worse.

Watch Out For the Symptoms

woman suffering from eating disorder

Parents, teachers, and even friends need to look out for symptoms of eating disorders in their loved ones. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Inadequate food intake
  • An obvious unhealthy weight
  • Significant weight change
  • Excessive exercise
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Persistently preventing gaining weight
  • Obsessing over weight
  • Repeatedly avoiding activities involving eating food
  • Tying self-esteem with body image

The symptoms vary per eating disorder. For instance, a teen suffering from bulimia nervosa often have repeated extended visits to the bathroom to purge (vomit), which is part of the binge-and-purge cycle of bulimia.

On the other hand, those suffering from anorexia nervosa naturally have a very low body mass index. Refusal to eat is second on the list of the eating disorder’s symptoms.

Recovery is Possible for All

Despite the prevalence of eating disorders, there’s hope for people dealing with either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Recovery will, however, take some time.

In the most unfortunate cases, some anorexics live with the eating disorder until they are all grown up, like Lisa Fogarty. She recovered at some point when she had children, but she relapsed. In most cases, a combination of counseling and other forms of therapy can help a person recover. The key is to help these individuals establish healthier eating patterns and extend support and understanding.

They also need an improvement in their attitudes about their weight and physical appearance. For instance, they should learn to understand and accept that body image isn’t a societal requirement they need to fulfill. Any person living with eating disorders need all the support they can get. They need reassurance that you’ll be there throughout the entire process.

Girls or boys living with an eating disorder should know that it’s not hopeless. There’s a chance for recovery, with the right kind of support, a holistic recovery program, and the will to get back up.