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What's Eating Her?  Getting Help With Eating Disorders

There are three types of eating disorders found among teens.  The first and most common is compulsive overeating, and, along with lack of exercise, is responsible for the skyrocketing obesity seen among teens in this country.  The second most common is bulimia.  Those suffering from this disorder regularly binge on high calorie food and then force themselves to vomit before their bodies can absorb the calories and nutrition from the food.  The third most common is anorexia.  Those with this condition have such a distorted image of their body size and weight that they give up eating all together.  While most teens with eating disorders are female, there are recorded cases of young men who also suffer from the same conditions. 

Though the conditions are different, the treatments for all three are similar.  The first is therapy to help your teen get to the bottom of what is causing her to over or under eat.  If a condition is caught very early, this therapy may be able to take place on an outpatient basis.  However, in more advanced cases (especially of anorexia), your teen may need to be hospitalized.

The next step is behavior modification.  For the teen that is overeating this will probably involve learning to make better food choices and get more exercise.  Because teens are growing so fast, many doctors are reluctant to put them on strict diets.  For teens with bulimia or anorexia, the therapist will work with your teen's medical doctor to develop an improved nutritional plan and to set realistic goals for weight control.

Remember that eating disorders need to be addressed.  While anorexia is the most dangerous condition because the dramatic weight loss often leads to death, both bulimia and compulsive overeating can have serious long term health consequences.

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