Teens and Eating Disorders: What Are the Long-Term Risks?

Eating disorders are very complex mental health conditions that can arise in many different forms. From anorexia nervosa to bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and orthorexia nervosa, each disorder includes its own unique set of symptoms and potential long-term health complications for teens and young adults. Medical issues can range from high blood pressure to diabetes, cancer, heart disease and even death. The longer a person waits to enter eating disorder treatment, the higher risk they have of experiencing long-term medical issues. With the help of therapeutic counseling programs offered at eating disorder treatment centers, such as Clementine, adolescents can receive the tools and support they need for a successful and lasting recovery.

Understanding Long-Term Risks: Why Do Most Eating Disorders Develop During Adolescence?

While people of all ages and genders can experience an eating disorder, they typically develop during adolescence. Eating disorders in teens are very common, with 80 percent of 13-year-old girls dieting in an attempt to lose weight and 86 percent of people diagnosed with an eating disorder stating their symptoms began before the age of 20.

Eating disorders develop due to a variety of factors, including certain personality traits, genetics, social pressures and trauma, and adolescents are the most at-risk group for early development of the disorders. Many experts believe because adolescence is associated with increased change and new stressors, the associated anxiety and confusion can increase the vulnerability to disordered eating, as it can be used as a coping mechanism.

Adolescents are also experiencing a time of physical and emotional transformation. These new developments can result in low self-esteem, feelings of self-consciousness and comparisons with peers. Hormones can also affect the way the brain processes information, bringing up new emotions and psychological changes.

What Are Some Common Sign and Symptoms of Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders in teens can seem to develop overnight, but there are early warning signs parents and other loved ones should be aware of. Some of the most common symptoms of eating disorders include:

  • Dramatic weight loss or fluctuations in weight
  • Fear of eating around others, eating in secret or hiding food
  • Excessive exercise despite illness, injury, bad weather or other social commitments
  • Cutting out certain foods, excessive chewing at mealtimes or only eating foods in certain orders
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Vomiting or laxative use
  • Sleeping problems, dizziness and fainting spells
  • Cooking meals for others without eating or avoiding eating in public
  • Hiding body shape in baggy clothes
  • A general preoccupation with food, calories, dieting and weight

What Are the Long-Term Health Consequences of Eating Disorders?

Early intervention for eating disorder recovery is so important because, without treatment, certain medical conditions can worsen over time. Most eating disorder treatment centers provide access to medical and psychiatric care, supporting your child on the path to recovery and hopefully negating the negative impact of the eating disorder.

Years of self-starvation and food elimination behaviors can result in weaker heart muscles and increase the chances of stroke. Low blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms can also be common in both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Not only do eating disorders take a toll on the heart and gastrointestinal system, anorexia nervosa has the third highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Additionally, binge eating disorder can lead to childhood obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes.

Eating Disorder Treatment for Teens at Clementine

At Clementine and our affiliate programs, we offer extensive eating disorder recovery programs tailored to meet the needs of teens and young adults. By providing a safe, comfortable and home-like eating disorder treatment setting, we help adolescents discover the tools they need for a successful and long-term recovery. Call 855.900.2221 or contact us online today for more information.