Help! My Teen Has an Eating Disorder


If your teen restricts what they eat, binges and then purges, or simply binges all the time, they have an eating disorder that needs to be treated to protect their physical and mental health. We can help.

Eating is a deeply seated, instinctual act that all species do to obtain energy for their bodies. For many teens and young women, though, eating is a problematic behavior that’s classified as a mental health disorder. An unhealthy relationship with food that manifests as an eating disorder can lead to serious health complications, including death. Board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner Farheen Makani, PMHNP-BC and her team at Aura Psychiatry, PLLC in Allen, Texas, diagnose and treat all forms of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. If your teen struggles with eating, is obsessed with their weight, and/or can’t control what they eat, it’s time to schedule an appointment and help them get their life back on track. Types of eating disorders There are many types of eating disorders, but the “big three” are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Anorexia nervosa People with anorexia have a distorted body image that leads them to believe they’re fat even if they’re not, and they also have an intense fear of gaining weight. As such, they severely limit the types of food they eat and the number of calories they consume until they’re unable to maintain an appropriate body weight based on their height, age, stature, and physical health. Their body mass index (BMI) is usually below 18.45 kg/m2. (A healthy BMI starts at 18.5kg/m2.) People with anorexia may also exercise compulsively and/or purge what little they do eat through intentional vomiting and/or excessive laxative use. This extreme weight loss can lead to malnutrition, many serious health problems because organs can’t obtain the nutrients they need, and even death. Any person can develop anorexia, but it’s most common among adolescents and young adult women, although it appears to be increasing among children and older adults. Best estimates are that it affects about 1-2% of the population. You can’t tell if a person is anorexic just by their appearance, because the disorder includes psychological and behavioral components as well as physical. In fact, a person doesn’t need to be underweight to have anorexia, and not everyone who’s underweight has the condition. It’s important to look at all factors before diagnosing a person with anorexia. Bulimia nervosa People with bulimia indulge in uncontrolled overeating, called binging, followed by purging by a method like vomiting or excessive laxative use. When you binge, you eat large quantities of food in a short time, usually under two hours. Then come feelings of guilt or shame at what you’ve done, which leads to purging. This cycle repeats, sometimes as frequently as many times a day. People with bulimia are often able to keep a normal or above normal body weight, which allows them to hide their problem for years. Many people don’t seek help for the disorder until they’re between their 30s and 50s, by which time their behaviors are so ingrained they become harder to change. There’s no defined cause of the condition, though social and cultural ideals that assign value based on body weight and shape most likely play a role, as does genetics. You’re more likely to develop an eating disorder if someone in your immediate family has one. Binge eating Binge eating disorder involves overeating, like bulimia, purging isn’t involved. According to the American Psychiatric Association, women who have binge eating disorder feel their life is out of control and eat too much (binge) to comfort themselves at least once a week for at least three months. During these binges, they usually eat faster than normal, eat until they feel uncomfortable, eat when they’re not hungry, and feel embarrassed, disgusted, or depressed afterward because of the binges. Women with this type of eating disorder are often overweight or obese. Treating eating disorders Eating disorders of any type are most effectively treated when they’re caught early, before there’s too much deterioration of the body. For all three of the eating disorders we’ve discussed, the treatment focus is on changing the distorted body image, nutritional counseling for healthy eating, and antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs to help with any comorbid conditions. Is your teen struggling with an eating disorder and you don’t know how to help? Then it’s time to come into Aura Psychiatry, PLLC for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. To get started, call our office at 469-599-2872, or book online with us today. We can help.

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