The ideal of the “slender body” is apparent if one considers simply the increase in the number of books and magazines that deal with weight loss/control. Teens are especially vulnerable to striving toward the “ideal” as they struggle with issues of self-definition and acceptance.
Girls outnumber boys by 10 to 1 in their presentation of eating disorder symptoms. This can place the boy with an eating disorder at risk for not receiving appropriate medical and psychological treatment. Although this article will use the feminine gender, it is important to bear in mind that the teenage boy may also develop an eating disorder.
Teens with a propensity toward an eating disorder tend to associate being overweight with a variety of extremely negative attributes, including laziness, dirtiness, stupidity or worthlessness. They experience constant, nagging thoughts about their weight, and often state that they only feel good about themselves when they are "empty", or when they lose weight. They often describe feeling literally stupid about experiencing their own hunger.
Recognizing the methods teens may use in an attempt to lose weight may help the informed parent to determine if his teen is at risk. The methods most often used by teens to quell their appetites, while appeasing the demands of their eating disorders, will most often include some or all of the following:
The essential diagnostic feature for individuals diagnosed as having either Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), is "being unduly influenced by body weight".
In Anorexia Nervosa, the criteria for diagnosis of the disorder includes a refusal to maintain adequate weight. This criterion is not present in Bulimia Nervosa.
In both the binge eating/purging type of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, binge eating is present. Binge eating by definition includes both consuming a large quantity of food, and feeling out of control.
In July we shall continue the subject of eating disorders. What should an assessment of my teen include?