Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Facts for Teens
What is an eating
An eating disorder is an obsession with food and
weight. Although we all worry about our weight sometimes, people with an eating
disorder go to extremes to keep from gaining weight. There are two main eating
disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
Did you know?
- 8,000,000 or more people in the United States
have an eating disorder.
- 90% are women.
- Victims may be rich or poor.
- Eating disorders usually start in the teens but
may begin as early as age 8.
Source: National Association of
Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
We don't know exactly. Possible causes include
feeling stressed out or upset about something in your life, or feeling like you
need to be "in control." Society also puts a lot of pressure on people to be
thin. This pressure can contribute too.
People with anorexia are obsessed with being
thin. They don't want to eat, and they are afraid of gaining weight. They may be
freaked out about how many calories they take in or how much fat is in their
food. They may take diet pills, laxatives or water pills to lose weight. They
may exercise too much. Anorexics usually think they're fat even though they're
very thin. People with anorexia may get so thin that they look like they're
Bulimia is eating a lot of food at once (called
binging), and then throwing up or using laxatives (called purging). After a
binge, some bulimics fast (don't eat) or overexercise to keep from gaining
weight. People with bulimia may also use water pills, laxatives, or diet pills
to "control" their weight. People with bulimia often try to hide their binging
and purging. They may hide food for binges. Bulimics are usually close to normal
weight, but their weight may go up and down.
What's wrong with
trying to be thin?
It's healthy to watch what you eat and to
exercise. What isn't healthy is worrying all the time about your weight and what
you eat. People with eating disorders do harmful things to their bodies because
of their obsession about their weight. If it isn't treated, anorexia can cause
the following health problems:
- Stomach problems
- Heart problems
- Irregular periods or no periods
- Fine hair all over the body, including the face
- Dry, scaly skin
If it isn't treated, bulimia
can cause the following health problems:
- Stomach problems
- Heart problems
- Kidney problems
- Dental problems (from throwing up stomach acid)
- Dehydration (not enough water in the body)
disorders be treated?
Yes. For anorexics, the first step is getting
back to a normal weight. If you're malnourished or very thin, you may be put in
the hospital. Your doctor will probably want you to see a dietitian to learn how
to pick healthy foods and eat at regular times. For both anorexics and bulimics,
family and individual counseling (talking about your feelings about your weight
and problems in your life) is helpful.
What are the warning signs?
The following are possible warning signs for
anorexia and bulimia:
- Unnatural concern about body weight (even if the
person is not overweight)
- Obsession with calories, fat grams and food
- Use of any medicines to keep from gaining weight
(diet pills, laxatives, water pills)
More serious warning signs may
be harder to notice because people who have an eating disorder try to keep it
secret. Watch for these signs:
- Throwing up after meals
- Refusing to eat or lying about how much was eaten
- Not having periods
- Increased anxiety about weight
- Calluses or scars on the knuckle (from forced
- Denying that there is anything wrong