Signs Your Child Might Be Struggling With an Adolescent Eating Disorder

Woman comforting an emotional young teenage girl sitting with her legs crossed on a sofa and crying

Did you know that over 30 million people in the US struggle with an eating disorder?

90% of people with eating disorders are girls, although boys may struggle with positive self-image too.

Are you concerned that your daughter or son might have an eating disorder? Unlike symptoms of drug addiction, the signs of anorexia or bulimia might be harder to spot.

In this post, we’ll outline five tell-tale signs of adolescent eating disorders. Read on to learn what to look out for.

1. Frequently Skipping Meals

One of the more obvious signs of an eating disorder is if your teen habitually skips or misses meals.

They might decline coming downstairs to dinner or back out of plans to eat with friends or family. They may also say they already ate at school or a friend’s house.

Others might make excuses to eat away from home, insisting they’ll eat breakfast at school or heat up leftovers later. This makes it easier to miss the fact that they’re not eating enough–or at all.

2. Disappearing Right After Eating

Does your teen have the habit of disappearing as soon as he or she finishes their plate?

If so, they might be making a beeline for the bathroom. Throwing up after a meal to avoid ingesting calories is a sure sign of bulimia.

Other teens may take laxatives so the food they eat quickly passes through their system. Perhaps even more common than vomiting, this is one of the little known facts about eating disorders.

3. Wearing Overly Baggy Clothes

Did your teen recently switch from skinny jeans and leggings to baggy sweatpants?

It could be the desire to try a new fashion trend–or it could be the sign of an eating disorder.

The longer your teen hides their eating disorder, the thinner they’re likely to become. Many teens try to “hide” their shrinking bodies beneath oversized clothes.

4. “Hidden” Food Stashes

Every teen likes to indulge in a candy bar or a bag of potato chips. If you find the occasional wrapper sitting on their nightstand, you probably have nothing to worry about.

But what if you find large bags of junk food stashed away in dresser drawers or under the bed? This could be a sign that your teen is binge eating in secret.

5. Preoccupation with Mirrors or Food

A teen struggling with body image may become obsessed with looking in the mirror. They might also avoid mirrors altogether or refuse to look at their reflection if a mirror is in front of them.

Has your son or daughter suddenly developed food phobias? Does he or she constantly talk about dieting or avoiding certain types of foods?

These are also telltale signs of an imbalanced view of food and eating.

Final Thoughts on Adolescent Eating Disorders

The signs of adolescent eating disorders may not be readily apparent.

If you suspect your teen is struggling with self-image, keep an eye out for the symptoms listed above. Then, if you detect a problem, you’ll be in a better position to help.

If your son or daughter wants to lose weight, assure them that there are safe ways to achieve their goals. This post has more information about healthy meal plans.