At least 9% of the worldwide population will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, seeking professional help is essential to recovery. Keep reading to better understand eating disorders in young adults and your options for where to go for help with eating disorders.
What Causes Eating Disorders in Young Adults?
There is no single cause of eating disorders in young adults. However, some contributing factors may include genetic predisposition, underlying mental health conditions, social pressures, a culture that overemphasizes thinness, nutritional deficiencies, and self-esteem issues. Another potential factor is an individual’s relationship with food, which can occur for various reasons, including attempting to cope with financial or personal stressors.
When Does Disordered Eating Become an Eating Disorder?
The most common types of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Each shows up differently, from constricting food consumption to bingeing and purging large quantities of food at a time. Understanding when disordered eating becomes an eating disorder is complex and requires the assistance of a trained medical professional. However, to help understand the differences, consider these brief definitions:
- Ordered Eating: when a person mindfully consumes food when hungry and stops when they are full
- Disordered Eating: when a person alters/manipulates their food intake
- Eating Disordered: when a person’s obsession with food hinders their ability to function normally and impacts their behaviors and mood
Disordered eating can be a precursor to an eating disorder. Therefore, if you think you or someone you know is struggling with their relationship with food, it is essential to get help. Eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, with 10,200 yearly deaths resulting from an eating disorder.
14 Signs of Eating Disorders in Young Adults
Eating disorders in young adults can be both challenging and severe. Unfortunately, they often go unnoticed until behaviors become more dramatic or harmful. While signs of an eating disorder vary from person to person, there are some common behaviors to look out for. These include:
- Extreme diets
- Obsession with body shape and appearance
- Excessive exercise
- Skipping meals
- Hiding food
- Avoiding social events involving food
- Changes in appetite levels
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Evidence of deliberate vomiting or laxative use (frequent trips to the bathroom after eating)
- Changes in food preferences
- Heightened anxiety around mealtimes
- Low self-esteem
If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it’s essential to speak up and make sure they’re getting the help they need as soon as possible.
What Can Help with Eating Disorders?
Eating disorder treatment may include counseling, nutrition education, medication, and monitoring by a physician or mental health provider. There are also residential treatment facilities for mental health and eating disorder treatment. In some cases, hospitalization may be required if an eating disorder is severe and threatens someone’s immediate life. With proper support and care, individuals can learn how to build healthier relationships with their bodies and develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Where to Go for Help with Eating Disorders?
Whether for yourself or a loved one, the first step in getting help for an eating disorder is to contact your medical doctor or a mental health professional. They will be able to assess the situation and provide guidance about the best course of treatment, which might include a residential treatment program that focuses on eating disorders in young adults. Residential treatment for young adults with eating disorders can range from intensive outpatient treatment to in-house programs for mental health support.
5 Tips for Getting a Loved One Help with an Eating Disorder
If you are reading this because you struggle with an eating disorder, I encourage you to connect with one of our highly-skilled therapeutic experts today. If you’re reading this because you believe someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, here are five tips for best supporting them during this time.
1. Express Your Concern Without Lecturing
It’s important to approach the subject with compassion and not lecture the person on how they are too skinny, need to eat more, or are harming themselves. Taking a combative approach will not encourage them to seek professional help. Instead, share how much you love and care about the person and that you’re genuinely concerned about their health.
2. Offer Your Support Without Judging
If someone is in a vulnerable place, they may feel embarrassed or judged by you bringing up the topic of their eating patterns or physical appearance. Statements like “I want to understand” and “I want to know the best way to support you” can help create space for conversation without judgment.
3. Respect Their Boundaries
You can’t make a young adult seek professional treatment. It has to be something they freely choose to do. Don’t take it personally if they reject your offer to help or deny they have a problem. Remember that an eating disorder is a mental illness; it can take a while for people to realize they need help.
4. Suggest Professional Treatment Options
If someone is open to your concern, talk to them about potential treatment options. You might sit down with them to research mental health providers in your area or programs that help young adults with eating disorders.
5. Offer to Accompany Them to Appointments
It can be intimidating to seek professional help for a mental illness like an eating disorder. Offering to attend the first appointment with a therapist or sit with someone while they call a treatment center for advice can help that person follow through with getting help. Only do this if you offer, and they accept but make sure they know it’s something you want to do and is not a burden.
Discover Where to Go for Help with Eating Disorders in Young Adults
Starting a dialogue about seeking professional treatment is the first step in getting yourself, a family member, or a friend help with an eating disorder. For more information and support for you or a loved one, connect with a therapeutic expert today.
About the Author
Jenney Wilder, M.S.Ed launched All Kinds of Therapy in 2015, as the only independent online directory for the Family Choice Behavioral Healthcare Industry. With an impressive case of ADHD and her starter career in the 90’s in Silicon Valley, the dream for creating a website with features like side-by-side comparison and an integrated newsletter was born. Jenney stopped counting treatment centers and all types of schools that she has visited when she hit 500 many years ago.