Two of the most common eating disorders seen in teens are anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
Anorexia nervosa usually occurs in young women, but occasionally afflicts young men. The symptoms include obsessional fear of obesity coupled with refusal to eat, compulsive exercising, severe weight loss and body image distortion. This causes a severely underweight teen to view herself as fat.
Bulimia, which occurs in both sexes, also stems from fear of fat, but includes eating large volumes of food followed by self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse or fasting. The bulimic may also be a drug or alcohol user, and is often of normal weight. Depression and low self esteem have been tied to both anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
Another disorder, compulsive overeating, is seen in both sexes and means that the teen eats to cope with feelings like depression, anger, anxiety and guilt. He or she may be somewhat overweight, or obese.
Eating disorders can be health or even life threatening, but they can be treated, and you should be sure to consult your physician.
Dr. Wibbelsman, M.D., is an award-winning author and former “Dear Doctor” columnist for Teen magazine. Chair of Adolescent Medicine for the Permanente Medical Group, Northern California, he is chief of the Teen-Age Clinic at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School. Dr. Wibbelsman is the news anchor for a Bay Area television series, “Medicine in the Nineties”.