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Eating Disorders
 by Anika
 Age 17

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Photo of Anika
     Anika, Age 17
WHAT is an Eating Disorder?

spacerAn eating disorder is a type of mental, physical, and emotional illness. Eating disorders occur in women (and men in 5% of cases) who suffer from distorted body image, low self-esteem, depression, etc. They can occur in women of any age; however, as this is a link for pre-teens, teenagers, and young women, the aspects of eating disorders that are especially relevant to teens will be focused on here. There are four main types of eating disorders: anorexia, or self-imposed starvation; bulimia, which is classified as bingeing and purging; compulsive overeating disorder; and Disordered Eating, or the weight and diet obsessions (discussed in Feeling Fat) that affect millions of young women. For a general overview of eating disorders, go to

WHAT causes eating disorders?

These evil thoughts, from where are they born?
spacer-Verde's Macbeth

spacerThere are usually many factors involved in the development of something as complex as an eating disorder. Eating disorders generally arise from a combination of psychological problems, societal standards, negative relationships, and possibly genetics.

spacerThe teenage years pose an especially difficult and vulnerable time for most teens. Puberty hits, and many girls are subjected to teasing by their peers. The feelings of inadequacy, the poor-self image, the anxiety, and loneliness experienced by many teenage girls (and boys) may contribute to or aggravate an eating disorder.

Something changed the year I entered junior high. For one thing, bulimia took over my life. It stopped being a moonlighting gig, something I just happened to feel like doing when things in my head were particularly crazy, or when I was lonely or sad or flat. It began to have a force and a life of its own. From this point on, there are no memories that are not related to food or my body or barfing.
, Marya Hornbacher (p. 60)

spacerA large number of teenagers suffer from serious mental and emotional disorders such as depression and OCD; these psychological problems also provoke eating disorders. Teenagers already suffering from feelings of inadequacy are easily influenced by the media, which sets unrealistic standards and unachievable goals in terms of looks. Teen magazines, movies, and celebrities promote a glamorous and fake, yet desirable image. Some girls affected by these cultural images practice extreme dieting, with the hopes of looking like their role models. This is especially dangerous because diets can easily snowball into anorexia and bulimia. Dieting can become surprisingly addictive.   Eating Disorder
"Young Women in the Media"
 by Anika Clay and Elizabeth Hill

At a certain point, an eating disorder ceases to be "about" any one thing. It stops being about your family or your culture. Very simply, it becomes an addiction . . .
, Marya Hornbacher (p. 64)
spacerTroubled family, friend, or boy-friend/girl-friend relationships also may provoke an eating disorder, especially when abuse is occurring and the victim uses food to punish her (or him)self. Some people use food as a comfort item. Others think they can gain an identity from food. Many teenagers who are unable to deal with their rapidly changing, incredibly stressful lives resort to an eating disorder as a coping strategy. Dieting, bingeing, and purging help some people deal with painful emotions and to gain some control of their lives by controlling their eating habits.
It's disgusting but [my eating disorder was my safeguard, my surething, my life for all those years . . . It was something I knew for sure, no question, I was good at.
, Marya Hornbacher (p. 121)
spacerSome teenagers with eating disorders also experience:
spacerabuse (
spacerdrug addiction
spacerself-mutilation problems


Who's at Risk, Warning Signs, Med Complications
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