Teen Eating Disorders- 8 Tell Tale Signs & What to Do

Is your teen coming up with all kinds of excuses when it’s breakfast or lunch time? Has he/she stopped eating certain food groups or started eating the same foods all the time? Do they refuse to eat in public?

As Amy Morin, psychotherapist, university lecturer, and bestselling author explains, these are some of the major signs of eating disorders (ED) that often appear during adolescence. In fact, 95 percent of those with an ED are between an age of 12 and 25.

But, not all of these disorders are easily detected by parents due to a lack of awareness of the tell- tale signs and eating disorders in general.

The problem arises when the eating disorder is left for a long period of time without treatment and consequently, the child’s chances for a successful treatment diminish.

Unfortunately, a lot of parents may find it difficult to admit that their child is facing some ED and may decide to ‘leave it as it is’ in hope it ‘goes away on its own’. Others may confuse it for a growth phase.

However, EDs in children are much more than a growing phase and are a serious issue. In fact, they can lead to severe physical and mental problems and are life-threatening.

The challenge is to recognize the earliest symptoms, take the adequate measures, and be supportive and understanding.

When your child sees that you empathise with what they are going through and that you are not judging them, but approaching them with kindness, they will be more willing to cooperate.

For these disorders to be effectively treated, help will be required in a number of areas.

The child will need treatment that’s designed to help restore their weight and improve their eating habits. The treatment will also be focused on resolving potential psychological issues.

Nonetheless, not every child will readily accept that they have some problem that requires professional assistance. Since every person is an individual, you need to take into account your child’s personality before you talk with them about a potential problem.

How can you approach your child about ED without hurting them? How can you recognize the indicating signs from early on? What are the best treatments for a teen with an eating disorder?

Answers to these and similar questions plus the 8 main signals are featured in this report.


8 Tell Tale Signs of Teen Eating Disorders & What to Do

     1. Skipping meals

A child with an ED will come up with different types of excuses for not eating. For example, they will say that they’ve already eaten at a friend’s house or at school or say that they are not hungry yet and will eat later.

Of course, a lot of teens may decide to make changes in their eating habits from time to time, whether this involves trying some specific diet or trying to lose weight. This is understandable and doesn’t necessarily present an issue.

This is considered to be part of teen experimentation and growth and a result of the urge for individuality.

But, teens who start skipping meals and avoiding food on a regular basis may be struggling with an underlying ED. In this situation, the symptoms will become more extreme and impactful with time.

Consequently, you may notice a loss of weight in the child, anxiety, and low energy.

He/she may be in denial that there’s something wrong with their diet and may withdraw from people and become moody. Approach them and have a talk about what’s happening.

Ask them gently why they are skipping meals and whether there is something upsetting them. Explain that this is not healthy and that you can help them.

     2. Refusing to eat in public

Judy Scheel Ph.D., specialist in the treatment of eating disorders with a CEDS credential, member of the NEDA, AED, SSTAR, AASECT, and IAEDP, and current post-graduate in Forensic Psychology explains that people with eating disorders experience anxiety due to fear of criticism or humiliation in public.

This being said, if your teen has a terrible aversion to eating in public, he/she may be dealing with an ED. The teen may fear being judged for what they eat and how they eat and about their body size and shape.

Being extremely sensitive to negative thoughts, whether their own or what they think others think about them, can diminish their self-esteem, especially when they are among people. For them, being alone means being safe.

Communicate with your child about why they refuse to eat in public and emphasize you are there to support them. Avoid criticizing them or shaming them for wanting to eat alone and don’t force them to eat.

Note that they can better their relationship with food and thus, feel better in their own skin.

Consult professionals about how best to approach a teenager who is anxious about eating in social situations.

     3. Negative body image & weight problems

Having a healthy body image means that you’re happy and satisfied with your body. On the other hand, an unhealthy body image means that one is self-critical with their body’s size and shape and constantly compares their body with that of others.