What You Need to Know about Eating Disorders in Teenage Girls

Anorexic girl feels dizzy, depleted by severe diets, exhausted body, starvation

There’s an epidemic crippling the lives of many teenage girls, and that is the widespread cases of poor body image. As a result, 36% of adolescent girls believe they are overweight, and 59% of teenage girls are trying to lose weight.

The good news is that there is help. Renewed Hope Ranch is a treatment facility that uses a blend of medical and psychological treatment to help curb eating disorders in teenage girls.

Most Common Eating Disorders in Teenage Girls

The three most common eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder

Anorexia

Anorexia (loss of appetite) nervosa (Latin for nervous) affects approximately 1% of females. Their nervousness about being overweight is heightened to the point of self-starvation. The DSM-5 criteria for a diagnosis of anorexia are:

  • Restricting food intake resulting in a “significantly low body weight”
  • Fear of being fat or overweight
  • Distorted body image

Bulimia

Whereas those with anorexia eat very little or not at all, bulimia is characterized by the purging of food consumed. Some teenage girls will restrict food, then binge eat and purge. Others may eat what seem to be normal meals, but purge after each time they consume calories.

There are various ways people with bulimia will purge. Vomiting is perhaps the method that comes to mind when most people think of bulimia, but people will also void their bodies of the units of energy provided through calories by using laxatives or burning them through relentless over-exercising.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is not about weight loss, but about having an unhealthy relationship with food. It is used to cover up shame or unhappiness. People with BED will continue to eat even if they are uncomfortably full and feel ill.

Possible Causes of Eating Disorders

The causes of eating disorders in teenage girls can be genetic, environmental, emotional, and psychological, with a host of other influencers. Some common triggers observed are:

  • Unrealistic personal standards
  • Unreasonable parental expectations or perceived expectations
  • External criticism
  • Desire for perfection
  • Traumatic event or situation
  • Anxiety symptoms
Unrealistic weight

What to Watch For

The obvious sign of an eating disorder is weight loss or low body weight, but there are other signs that your teen daughter needs help. Symptoms and behaviors can include:

  • Skipping meals or refusing to eat
  • Obsession with food, i.e., number of calories
  • Constant anxiety over being fat
  • Repeatedly weighing herself throughout the day
  • Expressing guilt after eating
  • Disappearing after a meal, often into the bathroom

Social Media and Body Image

As if teenage girls didn’t already struggle enough with poor body image thanks to magazines, TV, and movies, now in the world of filters, Photoshop, and body editor apps, girls are comparing themselves to images that aren’t even real—but they think they are.

Athletics and Eating Disorders

Athletes are supposed to be fit and healthy, right? Unfortunately, there is such an emphasis on being lean and mean that athletes often suffer from eating disorders. Gymnasts and wrestlers are always trying to shed weight. Some athletes have to weigh in daily, and coaches hound them if they are not within ideal body weight.

Consequences of Eating Disorders

You cannot ignore eating disorders in teenage girls, even if your daughter appears to be healthy. There are serious consequences from starvation, bingeing, and purging:

  • Increased tooth decay due to erosion of enamel from stomach acid
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Brittle bones
  • Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)
  • Thinning, unhealthy hair
  • Poor nail quality
  • Skin disorders
  • Compromised immune system
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Death
Fat red writing on mirror and teenage girl

Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder

Your teen daughter’s treatment will depend on the type of eating disorder with which she struggles, the degree to which it has advanced both physically and psychologically, and her unique strengths and weaknesses.

At Renewed Hope Ranch, we will develop a treatment plan that encompasses medical treatment like supplements and other doctor-prescribed medications, as well as psychotherapy, nutrition education, supervised exercise, and equine therapy to help your daughter take back control of her life.

Find Help Today

Eating disorders can have long-term physical and emotional effects, so there’s no time like the present to seek the help your daughter needs. Renewed Hope Ranch is the ideal treatment facility for your teen who is struggling with an eating disorder, substance use, or mental health concerns.

Contact us today for more information or to find answers to your questions.