Eating disorders in teenagers are not a new problem. For years, young people have been falling prey to body image and control issues that lead to restricted eating patterns. There are many reasons, and there are usually goals that the teen is trying to obtain. While it will be difficult, there are several possible ways to bring victims of eating disorders back to normal eating behavior.
Understanding the reason is the first task that must be completed. It is possible for eating disorders to develop because of a negative self-image. When a normal weight teenager sees thin and air-brushed models in a magazine, they may resort to starving themselves in an attempt to obtain that image. Often, eating disorders are about control. When a person has very little control of their outside circumstances, they may attempt to control the few things that they can. In addition to simply starving themselves, people with anorexia often develop strange eating habits. They may eat a certain number of bites of a particular food everyday. These compulsive regimented eating patterns can be calming. With eating disorders such as bulimia, it may seem that one simply chooses to binge on high-calorie foods for enjoyment and then to vomit them to avoid the consequences of weight gain. In reality, the binge and purge cycle of bulimia is also about control and purging may bring about a sense of calm.
Treatment will depend on the reason the behavior started and how far it has progressed. If a child is just beginning to be obsessed with food, it may be possible to stop it in its tracks. Encouraging and monitoring healthy eating and engaging the teen in more constructive activities may help. Once it becomes serious, professional help may be needed. There are many programs designed specifically for teens with eating disorders, and medication can help treat the obsessive compulsive nature that is often true of those with eating disorders.
Successfully stopping a teenager from engaging in eating disorders depends on catching it quickly, identifying the reason and seeking help before it becomes a matter of life and death.