NEW YORK (CNN) – This week is National Eating Disorders awareness week. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life. Many of them will be teens.
How can parents spot an eating disorder in their children? The teenage years are fragile. Growing up can be tough, peer pressure, first loves, academics; they can all cause a lot of stress. That stress can sometimes lead to eating disorders, which take a big toll on adolescents, especially teenage girls.
How can a parent help a child avoid an eating disorder? The first step is to understand why they happen.
Although no one really knows what causes eating disorders, like anorexia nervosa and bulimia in children, doctors say there are telling factors.
According to the mayo clinic, some of those are:
- Social pressure – Everyone must be physically thin and very fit.
- Low self-esteem – Young people who feel they have little control over their lives might try to boost self-esteem by showing that there’s one thing they do have control over – their eating.
- Favorite activities – Watch what your child is involved in. Certain sports and activities value leanness.
- Perfectionism – many teens strive for being perfect and don’t realize no one is. This can create anxiety that could lead to an eating disorder.
Talk to your children. Be their advocate. If you notice sudden changes in their weight, eating habits like visiting the bathroom after every meal, or level of anxiety, talk to them. They may need help.