Eating disorders affect a significant portion of the population and most develop during adolescence. They also have the highest level of mortality rates among psychological disorders, with one of those most commonly identified disorders being bulimia.
Bulimia affects teenagers in the same way as adults, creating a drive to overeat followed by a purge of the stomach through vomiting. It is an extremely dangerous disorder, placing great stress on the body, and the chances and ease of recovery are higher when support is sought as early as possible.
Due to the stress experienced by many teenagers, such as from school and social media, it is easy to understand why the average age of onset for bulimia is 18 and 19 years.
Notable symptoms of the disorder may manifest as:
- Throat pain and discomfort
- Body image fixation or weight obsession
- Poor or discoloured teeth
- Anxiety or depression
- Bowel issues
- Significant weight fluctuation
While these symptoms may not be indicative of bulimia when occurring individually, it is important to be cautious of each potential sign due to the severity of the disorder.
How to Support Your Teenager
When approaching your teenager about the subject, they may become sensitive or quickly withdraw. Not only is it a potentially embarrassing issue for a young adult to deal with but they might remain unable to accept or fully identify the disorder themselves. If they are scared, anger or aggression is not unusual. Despite such difficulties, however, reaching out to them is a necessary first step, establishing a line for their communication.
Patience is key. It can take a huge amount of strength to confront a disorder and even more to reach out to a parent or guardian about it. When talking to your teenager, encourage them to communicate without being forceful. Create a non-judgmental space where they can communicate at their own pace.
When talking with them, it is a good idea to have in mind what you would like to say as it will allow you to stay calm during the discussion. Let them talk and express themselves, without fear of criticism, and avoid excessive or unnecessary mentions of their physical appearance, even when you may consider it a compliment.
As with many adult-teenager discussions, it is important not to expect immediate results or hope to have an issue resolved quickly. Your teenager may need time, which prevents them from being direct or honest initially.
Be aware of your own eating habits. If you are vocal about your own body image, prompting you to eat according to a diet or serve low-calorie foods, you may be causing difficulties for your child. It can also be helpful to steer conversations and focus away from the food in shared meals, support positive discussion on other topics instead.
By reading this article you have taken an initial positive step to better understand eating disorders and it is recommended that you continue to research so as to improve your understanding of the situation. It may also allow you to better understand their emotions.
If you feel you need further support, I can offer counselling in Bristol to over 18’s. Alternatively, you could contact Off The Record if you are under the age of 18. I have both the qualifications and experience to support adults with eating disorders, offering a safe and welcoming environment to clients. To further discuss how I can help or to book an initial consultation, please call 07751271709 or, alternatively, email email@example.com