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Eating disorders - Anorexia nervosa - Bulimia nervosa - Binge eating disorder
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Eating disorders - Anorexia nervosa - Bulimia nervosa - Binge eating disorder 


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Signs and symptoms


The signs and symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Weight loss, sometimes achieved by self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, use of diuretics or exercise

  • Refusal to maintain normal body weight, sometimes maintaining a weight 15 percent or more below normal body weight

  • Intense fear of gaining weight

  • Negatively altered body image

  • In females, menstrual changes or the absence of menstruation

  • Anxious or ritualistic behavior at mealtimes

  • Fatigue

  • Depression

  • Irregular heart rate

  • Lightheadedness

  • Mild anemia

  • Brittle nails and hair


Signs and symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating

  • Feeling that you can't control your eating behavior

  • Eating much more food in a binge episode than in a normal meal or snack

  • Following a binge with efforts to prevent weight gain — such as self-induced vomiting, using laxatives or other medications, fasting or excessive exercise

  • Unhealthy focus on your body shape and weight

  • Dehydration

  • Fatigue

  • Weakness

  • Depression

  • Irritability

  • Dry, sometimes yellowed skin

  • Damaged teeth and gums from gastric acid contained in vomit

  • Swollen cheeks from regular vomiting

  • Irregular heartbeat

Binge eating disorder

Signs and symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Recurrent — at least two a week — episodes of compulsive overeating not followed by purging

  • No control over eating behavior

  • Feelings of shame or guilt

  • Fatigue

  • Joint pain

  • Gallbladder disease

  • Increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels

It's often hard to distinguish between an eating disorder and the whims and fads of adolescence. Binge eating, dieting and experimenting with vomiting to get rid of food aren't uncommon behavior among teenage girls. These behaviors also occur, although not as frequently, among teenage boys. As a parent, be alert to sustained changes in dietary habits, not the occasional quirks that are part of growing up.

Most teenage girls, and some teenage boys, go on diets to lose weight and stop dieting after a few weeks. As a parent, be careful not to mistake occasional dieting with an eating disorder. The problem occurs when your child stops gaining weight during preadolescent years, when your child should be gaining as much as 10 pounds a year during an active growth spurt.

Other behaviors that may indicate your child has a potential eating disorder:

  • Not wanting to eat meals with the family

  • Frequent, long visits to the bathroom during or just after meals — your teenage child may run water to obscure the sound of induced vomiting

  • Excessive exercise or preoccupation with weight

  • Wanting to be alone

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