Eating Disorders in Adolescent Girls

Eating disorders are complex conditions arising from persistent eating habits (Fairburn & Harrison, 2003). The disorders often have negative psychological and physiological impacts on the victims. Disorders can happen at any age, but are more prevalent in adolescents, especially adolescent girls. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorders are among the most common types of eating disorders among adolescents. This paper aims to examine the three eating disorders amongst the adolescent girls and recommend the potentially useful diagnostics and counseling protocols.

Anorexia nervosa leads the adolescents to strictly restrict themselves from food and control the quality and quantity of food intake. The binge-eating disorder causes one to eat in alternating episodes, with a lot of shame and guilt (Fairburn & Harrison, 2003). Lastly, bulimia nervosa drives one to engage in binge eating episodes, marked with bouts of guilt and is associated with compensatory behaviors such as vomiting, fasting, use of laxatives and diuretics, and excessive exercising. Eating disorders have a toll on the body and mind of the victim if not checked and remedied.

In anorexia nervosa, an adolescent develops physiological effects mainly due to malnutrition (Graber & Brooks-Gunn, 1996). Body processes such as heart beat rates and blood pressure are affected. Notably, one experiences a slow heart beat rate and reduced blood pressure, reduction in muscle mass, general weakness, fatigue, fainting, reduction in bone density, severe dehydration, dry skin, dry hair, and hair loss. Associated psychological effects include a poor body image, low esteem, and depression. Behaviorally, they are oversensitive about food and weight topics, they do not like eating in the presence of other people, they engage in excessive exercise, they can engage in substance abuse and often have suicide attempts. They also have secretive eating and exercise behaviors; they also like cooking for other people and are aggressive when they are forced to eat what they do not want to eat.

Binge-eating disorder is a psychological illness that can affect anyone irrespective of age or gender. The ailment is characterized by excessive consumption of amounts of food when not hungry amidst feelings of guilt, depression, or even disgust. Adolescent girls with the condition suffer various physiological effects such as high cholesterol levels, weight gain, diabetes, kidney problems, high blood pressure, and irregular menstrual cycle (Graber & Brooks-Gunn, 1996). The physiological changes that come with the disorder have psychological effects such as self-esteem, self-disgust, embarrassment, fear of disapproval from their peers, anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts (Graber & Brooks-Gunn, 1996).

Bulimia nervosa causes bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea and even cramps; erosion of dental enamel, dehydration, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, swollen salivary glands and even stomach and intestinal ulcers (Graber & Brooks-Gunn, 1996). Psychological effects associated with this condition include guilt and shame, personal disgust, and have secretive eating habits. Besides, they are sensitive in topics related to weight, appearance, and food and are reluctant to participate in activities related to food. In addition, the adolescents are lonely lack interpersonal relationships and are thus lonely. In aggravated cases, episodes of depression, anxiety, and mood swings may drive them to substance abuse and attempted suicide.

The study on eating disorders is important in performing diagnostic and offering counseling to the affected adolescents. Adolescents are faced with the danger of possible stigmatization from their peers, loss of self-esteem, and deterioration of health. Social workers have a responsibility of counseling the adolescents and guiding them on health reform. Using the knowledge derived from evidence-based studies, social workers are able to tell the nature of disorder a girl is suffering from and recommend suitable remedial practices (Ma, 2007). In addition, social workers are in an informed position to recommend a suitable diet, especially to schools that have a feeding program to counter the effects of eating disorders. Besides, the public can be enlightened on the dangers of eating disorders, and ways overcome them. From the knowledge received, the society will change its perception of the affected individuals and end stigma and discrimination.

Food disorders are complications that need to be treated, to counter effects such as food avoidance by use of strict diets, fluctuations in weight, erratic behavior, as well as frequent trips to the bathrooms especially after eating. The findings on food disorders are crucial in diagnosis and treatment of such complications as and when they arise.


Fairburn, C. & Harrison, P. (2003). Eating Disorders. The Lancet, 361(9355), 407-416.

Graber, J. & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1996). Transitions and Turning Points: Navigating the Passage from Childhood through Adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 32(4), 768.

Ma, J. (2007). Meanings of Eating Disorders Discerned from Family Treatment and its Implications for Family Education: The Case of Shenzhen. Child & Family Social Work, 12(4), 409-416. doi:10.111/j.1365-2206.2007.00496x