Teen Eating Disorders Linked to Substance Abuse and Suicide

A new study has found that teenagers who suffer from eating disorders are more likely to harbor suicidal thoughts.

According to research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, adolescents with eating disorders are also more likely to suffer from substance abuse and anxiety disorders.teen-eating-disorders-linked-to-substce-abuse-suicide

A new study has found that teenagers who suffer from eating disorders are more likely to harbor suicidal thoughts.  According to research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, adolescents with eating disorders are also more likely to suffer from substance abuse and anxiety disorders.  Additionally, the research surprised even experts in the field when it revealed that more than half a million U.S. teens admit to having the symptoms of eating disorders.

These findings come from a survey of more than 10,000 teenagers, the most comprehensive survey of its type ever completed in the U.S.  Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health analyzed the survey data and reported these findings:

  • 1.6% of teens surveyed suffer from binge-eating.  A binge-eater will compulsively consume large amounts of food without feeling hunger, then experience depression and guilt.
  • 0.9% suffer from bulimia nervosa, which involves binge-eating with purging through self-induced vomiting, consumption of laxatives and over-exercising.
  • 0.3% suffered from anorexia nervosa, which is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

Each of these eating disorders involves a preoccupation with body image and weight.  Depression is often a trigger for binge-eating disorders, while anorexia and bulimia may begin with a concern about being made fun of for being overweight.  The disorders affect both males and females.  While more girls than boys were found to have bulimia and binge-eating, an equal number of males and females suffering from anorexia.
One of the most shocking findings of the research is that one third of the teens with bulimia reported having attempted suicide.  The research also revealed the link between eating disorders and substance abuse, a topic that has been studied by other researchers. As many as 50% of people suffering from anorexia and bulimia have been found to have substance abuse problems.  Alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines and tobacco are the most commonly abused substances among people with eating disorders.

Risk Factors for Eating Disorders

The Eating Disorders Coalition has reported that eating disorders have a higher mortality rate than any other mental illness, with about 20% of people with eating disorders eventually dying from their condition.
Parents of teenagers should look for these risk factors for eating disorders:
•    Depression
•    Low self esteem
•    Negative peer pressure or bullying
•    Anxiety, inability to manage stress
•    Obsessive compulsive tendencies
•    History of abuse or trauma
•    Family history of eating disorders
•    Impulsiveness

Seek Help for Teens with Eating Disorders

Many teenagers feel that there is a stigma associated with eating disorders.  Despite the support of friends and family, they may cover up the symptoms of their condition for years.  Parents who suspect that their teenager is suffering from an eating disorder should seek professional help immediately.  With professional rehabilitation, the odds of recovering from an eating disorder and any associated substance abuse disorders are greatly increased.