Screening for Teen Psychiatric Disorders

Recent studies published in the Archives of General Psychiatry show that eating disorders in teens are strongly connected to suicide. These eating disorders can be fatal, usually beginning during the ages of 12- 17, and are associated with numerous other psychiatric disorders.

The research was based on a survey of more than 10,000 teenagers between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. The study revealed that more than fifty percent of American adolescents have suffered an eating disorder. Most do not seek treatments for their issues; in fact, less than a quarter of all teens seek help for eating or weight problems. Psychiatric disorders are addressed more often.

Of those who participated in the survey, nearly 86% had suffered from at least one other psychiatric disorder, such as depression, anxiety disorder or social phobia. All eating disorders were associated with a certain level of suicidal risk, bulimia nervosa was the one found to be the most strongly tied to suicide. A third of the respondents who experienced bulimia admitted to attempting suicide at least once.

Health care professionals strongly encourage parents and youth organizations to pay careful attention to their children’s eating habits, as well as to their emotional and psychological health. Proper awareness, prevention and treatment can effectively reduce the risk of suicide in American teens today.

Eating Disorders Rising Among the Youngest Patients

Eating disorders among children seems to be on the rise according to a new report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday. The report showed a large increase in the hospitalization of children for eating issues.

An increase in hospitalizations of 119% was observed among children younger than 12 years old for eating disorders between the years 1999 and 2006.

Another report was released last year by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality showed similar results. That study found an overall increase of 15% in hospital stays during the same seven year period with the largest increase among the youngest patients.

The academy is urging pediatricians to be on the look-out for affected children with routine screen for eating disorders and special treatment for those found with such disorders. The Academy stated that physicians can play an important role in preventing eating disorders by teaching their young patients about good eating habits, proper nutrition and the benefits of exercise so that there is not an unhealthy focus on weight gain and dieting.

Recognizing Eating Disorders

Since student life brings with it so many new challenges and opportunities, many can start feeling overwhelmed. Of course, it can be difficult to talk about these problems, so you may find some fellow students hiding what is going on with them.  It can be quite common – at this age and stage of life – for female students (and sometimes male ones, but it’s usually the females) to develop an eating disorder.  In fact, statistics show that this is the time an eating disorder is most likely to begin.  So what signs are there to look out for vis-à-vis your fellow students?  What, if anything, can you do to help?  Anorexia nervosa and compulsive overeating are generally easier to identify than bulimia since the first two disorders have signs apparent in the physical appearance (the first being severe, extreme weight loss and the second being huge weight gain).  If you notice something like this, then it is quite likely that the person is suffering from an eating disorder.  With bulimia nervosa however, in general the weight stays the same and the sufferer is going to be quite secretive so it is harder to identify. Still, there are some signs like constant retching in the bathroom, vomit, diarrhea, etc.   If you feel your colleague may be suffering from an eating disorder, do not attack her with it, just try to talk to her about how she is feeling in her new college environment and open the door for her to discuss any issues she may be having.  Tell her about your struggles (if you have any), keep it real and let her know you won’t judge her. Do not attack her and tell her she desperately needs professional help; that will just push her further away. The most important thing you can do for her in such a situation is to let her know you are there for her with a listening, kind, ear.