How Do You Recognize and Help a Teen with an Eating Disorder?

How Do You Recognize and 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 at a higher risk for eating disorders.

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.

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
  • Occurring at least once a week
  • 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. Don’t avoid it with hopes that they will overcome it. An eating disorder is a mental health condition that needs to be addressed.

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

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

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

Sources: Teen eating disorders: Tips to protect your teen, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2020; Eating disorders, leaving site icon National Institute of Mental Health, 2018; Types of Eating Disorders, leaving site icon Freed Organization, 2020.

Originally published September 19, 2018; Revised 2020