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While other people see a normal (or painfully skinny) kid, teenagers with eating disorders look into the mirror and see a different person entirely. Young women (and some young men) who develop eating disorders are extraordinarily focused on their appearance as a measure of self-worth. Anorexia nervosa, the most common eating disorder, is self-imposed starvation, usually by a young woman who is otherwise high-functioning. Kids with bulimia nervosa, the other common eating disorder, indulge in periodic and usually secretive binges. People with bulimia are sensitive to their disorder and will try to keep their unhealthy food habits a secret.
Get tips from a Westchester County-based certified nutritionist about dealing with eating disorders. Download comprehensive toolkits from NEDA, including help with parent-school communications, financial assistance (even negotiating with your insurance provider), and questions to ask when interviewing a therapist.
Read "Before I Disappear," by Barb Herding, a fictional story of 16-year-old young woman hospitalized as a result of her eating disorder that has spiraled out of control. Eating disorders affect people from all walks of life, including young children, middle-aged women, and men and individuals of all races and ethnicities. Four out of 10 Americans either suffered or have known someone who has suffered from an eating disorder. Three out of four Americans believe eating disorders should be covered by insurance companies just like any other illness. 46% of 9-11 year-olds are "sometimes" or "very often" on diets, and 82% of their families are "sometimes" or "very often" on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992).

Learn the early warning signs of eating disorders (perhaps surprisingly, for boys as well as girls). Self-esteem can be precarious during adolescence, and body consciousness comes with the territory.
They have a distorted perception of their own appearance, and no amount of reassurance from family and friends--all of them saying, "You're not fat"--will change that conviction.
Personality types more likely to develop the disorder include athletes, perfectionists, and over-achievers.
They often obsess over calorie counts and nutritional facts, and can spend many hours exercising to burn off calories. Many kids with bulimia say they feel out of control during their binges and describe them as "out of body experiences." To compensate, many will purge afterward or diet strenuously. However, there are still signs to look out for, such as the absence of large amounts of food.
Adolescence is a difficult time for most kids, and it's essential to provide them with a nurturing and supportive environment.
Be extra vigilant if you have a family history of eating disorders or if you know that your child is under extreme pressure to look a certain way. If you think your child has an eating disorder, you should contact a doctor for help immediately. Eugene Beresin, director of child and adolescent psychiatry residency training at Massachusetts General and McLean Hospital, and a professor at Harvard Medical School, talks about the difficult but rewarding road to recovery for young women with eating disorders. They are driven to maintain a dangerously low body weight because of a distorted self-image.

Kids with the disorder may skip meals and have a pattern of excusing themselves from eating socially.
Teenagers with the disorder may be very influenced by the ideal body perpetuated in media and popular culture. So what's the difference between normal behavior and behavior that might indicate an eating disorder? Detecting anorexia can be very difficult because it typically affects high-performing kids.
You might become worried about anorexia if you notice that your child is losing weight unexpectedly. It can be difficult to diagnose the disorder because people with bulimia can have a normal body weight or may even be overweight.
A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Despite their extreme thinness, kids with the disorder usually don't think that they are unhealthy and actually want to lose even more weight. You might notice that your child is going to the bathroom immediately after meals, or spends a lot of time in the bathroom, which could indicate purging.

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