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Eating Disorders in Adolescents

The two most commonly noticed eating disorders in teenagers and adolescents are Anorexia Nervosa Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia.

Anorexia is a disease that causes an adolescent to be obsessed with being thin. Such persons have an extreme fear of gaining weight and view their bodies as being too big. They indulge in excessive fasting, count their calories obsessively and exercise frequently. They are prone to use laxatives or diet pills and induce vomiting after eating. Their lack of proper diet does not allow normal function of their bodies. Such individuals would have lowered blood pressure and pulse, have brittle hair and nails, feel faint, have swollen joints, loss of hair and suffer from depression.

Bulimia is caused by adolescents binge eating, and then purging them selves or indulging in a lot of physical activity. They are unable to control their urge for eating and may even eat secretly because they are ashamed of their lack of control. Adolescents with bulimia may constantly suffer from stomach pain, dehydration and a swollen face. They can cause permanent damage to their stomach and kidneys. If they do gain a lot of weight they could be further susceptible to diabetes and heart disease.

There are certain risk factors that can make an adolescent more prone to these eating disorders. The changes in the body that take place during this time causes weight gain and can trigger anorexia. The pressures that life has during the teenage years, like school pressures and peer pressure can cause a teenager to use their food to demonstrate their ability to control things. If a child achieves puberty much before the others in his peer group, this could trigger eating disorders, as the teenager feels out of place in his group. Teens who are very good athletes may also fall prey to eating disorders because their sports makes them constantly aware of their bodies. Teens living in disturbed homes or homes where there is substance abuse may also fall prey to eating disorders because they feel the need to show some sort of control. What better way to do this then in controlling one’s own diet?

The health risks in these eating disorders are great and an aware parent will get professional help to treat his child if he does observe symptoms of this disorder. Treatments involve medicines, the services of a dietician and finally the advice of a therapist to increase the adolescents self esteem.

The first need is to get the child back to the correct weight for his age and build, and also ensure that the balance of chemicals in the body is at the correct levels. Supplements in the form of minerals and vitamins may be suggested. Once this balance and the correct weight are achieved the adolescent must go in for therapy. This is because the underlying causes for these eating disorders are basically emotional ones. These mental traumas can be quite deep and disturbing and it is only a trained therapist who can spot these and suggest remedial measures. Quite often the therapist will include family and friends in the treatment as their support is considered a key factor. Treatment may take a long time and will require that the adolescent is fully aware that he has a problem and is willing to be treated for it.

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