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Glossary of Symptoms: Teen Eating Disorders – Part One

Teen Eating Disorders | ParadigmMalibu.com

There’s so much about eating disorders that remains unknown for parents, teens, and the public in general. For the most part, teen eating disorders are kept under the radar of the mainstream public and so there is still little that is understood about these disorders.


For instance, if you ask someone about different types of eating disorders, they might be able to say Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. However, visit the FEAST (Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders) website and you’ll see a list of 35 disorders and disturbances!


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a standardized text and clinical reference used by psychologists and therapists to diagnose their clients, has most recently recognized only three eating disorder illnesses. The manual includes the names, features, symptoms, and demographical information on all the recognized mental illnesses, including eating disorders. The DSM, fourth edition, included only three disorders – Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified. However, the most recent edition, published in the Spring of 2013, includes more variations of eating disturbances than its earlier editions.


Prior to the fifth edition, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), publishers of the DSM, found that many clinicians were using the Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified as a diagnosis more frequently than the other two. And for this reason, the APA included more variations, such as Binge Eating Disorder and Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, in its most recent edition. However, it’s clear that much about teen eating disorders remain to be discovered and brought into the field of psychology.


Yet, regardless of how one is diagnosed, the symptoms that exist perhaps in an adolescent or in someone else you love are more important. The following is a list of symptoms and their definitions so that there’s not so much identification with the illness but rather recognition of how that illness is revealing itself in the life of someone you know.


Amenorrhea: the absence of a menstrual period. There are two types of amenorrhea – primary and secondary. Primary is when a young girl has not yet received her first period by the age of 16. Secondary is when menstruation has stopped for at least 3 months. Amenorrhea occurs when there is a low body weight, low levels of body fat due to restrict eating patterns.


Anorexic Debate: This term refers to the unsuccessful attempts by caregivers to convince an anorexic teen to eat. There are often cognitive distortions that arise from malnutrition and result in neurological dysfunction, such as the inability to process concepts around weight, food, appearance, and body image.


Anorexic Identity: This is the identity that Anorexic teens can develop where the disorder and the teen become one. In other words, the teen strongly identifies with being anorexic. One goal of treatment is to help a teen develop a strong sense of self and separate from the disease.


Anorexic Voice: This is an internal voice that many anorexics will experience during their eating disorder. They are the thoughts and feelings of the pressures toward disordered eating, beliefs, and behaviors imposed by the disease. The voice is experienced as a voice of the disorder, a cognitive distortion that becomes personified. One of the goals of treatment is to help a teen resist this voice.


Anosognosia/anosognosic: This is a mental state in which a patient is unaware of, or denies, the disorder. At times Eating Disorder patients will not feel as though anything is wrong and believe their thoughts and behaviors to be normal.


Appetite: This is simply the desire to eat. However, with Anorexia and Bulimia, there is a dsyregulation of appetite and impulse control regarding food.


This is a beginning list of definitions. Look for the remaining two parts of this series for more on ways that teen eating disorders reveal themselves in its various symptoms.






Eating Disorders Glossary – Symptoms and Behavior. Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders. Retrieved on May 7, 2014 from: http://glossary.feast-ed.org/2-eating-disorders-symptoms-and-behaviors



By Robert Hunt
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Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.

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