Eating disorders can come in many forms, born from various underlying causes that lead to the person developing a disordered relationship with their eating habits. When discussing different age groups and what contributes to their condition, it is important to consider factors unique to the person and their life.
When comparing fully grown adults with adolescents, the stressors that can lead them to develop an eating disorder share some similarities but can also greatly vary for teenagers. They have unique stressors based on where they are in life, struggling with what they can control, and societal pressures that can lead them down a destructive path.
Teen stress can come from various sources, but one of the most common ones remains school — specifically, how well they perform academically. Students who prioritize getting the best grades possible can begin skipping their meal times to study to hit their academic standards, sacrificing the necessary nutrition they need to get more time in the library.
External pressure from parents to get top grades to help with their collegiate prospects can also lead to increased stress. As these feelings continue to mount, teens coping with stress may try to exert a level overcontrol on their life — most often in their eating habits.
High School Athletics
Student-athletes often face mounting pressures from a mixture of sources that contribute to rising stress levels and potentially developing an eating disorder. Fitness and athletic performance directly correlate to the kind of nutrition they get. Still, for sports such as wrestling and football where meeting target weights can directly affect whether or not they can participate in the activity.
High school wrestlers are at higher risk of developing disordered eating habits based on weight-cutting practices. To meet their target weight, student-athletes can resort to running in specialized suits to sweat out water weight or take more aggressive measures to make the cut. In some cases, they may begin to develop and suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.
The pressure teens can feel from their friends, “popular” kids, and society, in general, can drastically affect their relationships with their body image and food. Whether they have unrealistic expectations of what makes the ideal body, beauty standards, or friends teasing them about “adding a few pounds,” all of these interactions can harm how they view themselves and their relationship with food. This stress can lead them to resort to drastic measures to try and meet these expectations and standards — no matter the cost.
Problems at Home
Teenagers living in a household where their parents are always fighting and on the verge of divorce can find themselves in a situation where they feel the only thing they can control are their eating habits. As the parents continue to fight, creating a toxic environment where their kids’ needs might not be met, they can turn to food as a coping mechanism for the chaos in their life.
To deal with the instability, teens can develop binge eating and purging disorders. They may find comfort in going on a food binge, feel disgusted with themselves, and then purge their systems of what they ate. This vicious cycle can rob their still-growing bodies of vital nutrients and perpetuate the toxic home environment.
How Can I Help My Teen?
Being a teenager remains one of the most difficult parts of a person’s life. They’re still learning who they’re becoming, gaining valuable life skills, and don’t completely understand how to respond to certain situations. If they begin to suffer from an eating disorder at this impressionable age, finding an eating disorder treatment center in Sylvania, OH, can help them receive the support they need.
The Toledo Center for Eating Disorders offers adolescents the personalized treatment plans they need to identify the specific stressors in their life and give them better coping techniques and strategies to deal with them. We work with each individual suffering from eating disorders that come through our doors and offer them the support they require to move forward and repair their ongoing relationship with food.
If you or someone you love is currently dealing with an eating disorder, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Contact Toledo Center for Eating Disorders today at 419-885-8800 and let our specialized treatment programs be the help you need today!