How Do You Help a Teen with an Eating Disorder?

How Do You Help a Teen with an Eating Disorder?

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Teens see very skinny models on TV and touched-up pictures of celebrities online. These images are all around. And they may make teens question how they look.

While it’s normal for teens to worry about their bodies, it may put them at risk of developing an eating disorder. Young women who have a poor self-view are especially vulnerable. Teenage girls and young women are more likely than teenage boys and young men to have anorexia or bulimia. But  males can also have eating issues. Eating disorders often start in the teens and early 20s, but they can happen later.

Eating disorders are very serious because they change a person’s eating habits. An eating disorder may start when a person becomes fixated on food. Or they may worry about body weight and shape.

These disorders can be life-threatening if not recognized and treated. The earlier a person gets treatment, the greater the chance of full recovery, says Mental Health America. leaving site icon 

Some Signs of Common Eating Disorders Are:

Anorexia Nervosa

  • Limiting food, leading to very low weight
  • Great fear of gaining weight or being fat
  • Believing one is “fatter” than they are

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Eating large amounts of food followed by throwing up, fasting or a lot of exercise
  • Believing one is “fatter” than they are

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Eating large amounts of food with a sense of loss of control
  • Eating alone and faster than normal
Ways to Help

If you’re afraid that someone you care about has an eating disorder, it’s important to talk to them about it. Urge them to see a doctor. An eating disorder is a mental health issue that needs to be addressed.

The Mayo Health Clinic leaving site icon offers these topics to talk about:

  • Healthy eating habits
  • Having a healthy body image and self-esteem
  • The dangers of extreme eating habits

Do you have any questions about eating disorders or other mental health issues? Reach out to us at 

Sources: Eating Disorders, leaving site icon Mental Health America, 2022; Teen eating disorders: Tips to protect your teenleaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2020; Eating disordersleaving site icon National Institute of Mental Health, 2021.

Originally published 9/9/2018; Revised 2020, 2022