Human Service Workers

Human Services: Eating Disorders in Adolescents

By Heather Goods

BSHS 302/Introduction to Human Services/University Of Phoenix

Adolescence can be a stressful time when children come to a point in their life when they try and figure themselves out, have new and different attitudes, issues and behaviors. This is a transitional stage that can be hard to overcome peer pressure or even one??™s own pressure. It may not be just a time to rebel or challenge rules but a difficult time in the eyes of the adolescent. Trying to look a certain way or how everyone else is perceived may be a difficult view from some adolescents. During this time in an adolescent??™s life they become subject to social standards, pressures of others and themselves. Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa become common in the adolescent years. Anorexia can be stemmed from family problems in some cases. Bulimia however seems to have risk factors that include low self esteem and the dislike of the own make-up of an adolescents body.

Both anorexia and bulimia may be treatable through family counseling. Low self-esteem or sense of worth during adolescents can be linked to taking on these forms of severe, unhealthy dieting. These adolescents may want to appear thin or have muscles, whatever the case they take extreme measures to try and obtain their ideal look. The images that these adolescents view in their own minds may cause them to revert to the unsafe methods causing destruction to their bodies.

A majority of adolescents with eating disorders are not discovered by health officials. Adolescents have feelings and thoughts and having someone to talk to can deter so much in their minds. Social workers have found their ways into schools and groups for adolescents helping them with routine growth within themselves. Unless a healthcare worker is specifically screening for and eating disorder then symptoms may not be obvious or appear. However, talking and sharing can help an adolescent with an eating disorder. Early intervention can help save lives and deter the eating problems associated with weight, size or ideas that they are unhappy with their own bodies. Eating disorders can cause: tooth erosion, abdominal changes, and irregular menstrual periods in girls, esophagus erosion, hormonal changes, fertility problems, bone density loss, anemia, neurological problems and even death. There is no one single cause an adolescent having an eating disorder. Outside influences from cultural, social and behavioral views factor into what may cause some adolescents to revert to such drastic measures on how they treat their own bodies.

Family based therapy can be proven to be a treatment that is successful within adolescents who have eating disorders. Treating an eating disorder can only happen if it is known to exist. An adolescent may reach out for attention or just need to be acknowledged at some point in their life. Adolescents are very critical of themselves. Support, encouragement and just being able to have knowledge and be able to trust in someone during these stressful times in their lives can help adolescents have a better view. Awareness is important in educating our adolescents on the harm and affects that a simple interpretation of themselves can be one blurred by outside influence and pressures of just being one??™s self.


Barker, E., & Bornstein, M. (2010). Global Self-Esteem, Appearance Satisfaction, and Self-Reported Dieting in Early Adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 30(2), 205-224. doi:10.1177/0272431609332936

Hautala, L., Junnila, J., Alin, J., Gronroos, M., Maunula, A., Karukivi, M., et al. (2009). Uncovering hidden eating disorders using the SCOFF questionnaire: Cross-sectional survey of adolescents and comparison with nurse assessments. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 46(11), 1439-1447. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2009.04.007.

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