Call Today: (863) 658-0495

Eating Disorders in Teens

Teen girl sitting on the ground staring at a scale in front of her  

Insecurity about one’s appearance is a common experience, especially for teenagers. While most people occasionally struggle with body acceptance, some teens’ concerns may develop into an eating disorder. With diagnosis and treatment, teens can overcome an eating disorder.

Teenage Eating Disorders Statistics

Many patterns of disordered eating first emerge in the teenage years. Though statistics indicate that some eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa may be becoming more common, eating disorders are still relatively rare conditions. Studies have estimated the prevalence of eating disorders in teens as approximately:

  • 0.3% for anorexia
  • 0.9% for bulimia
  • 1.6% for binge eating disorder

Eating disorders are far more common among females than males, with a youth female to male ratio of 5:1. This ratio becomes more disproportionate in older populations: a female to male ratio of 10:1.

Types of Eating Disorders in Teenagers

While any type of eating disorder may occur in adolescence, some of the most common types include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (AFRID).

  • Anorexia nervosa in teens may be one of the most discussed eating disorders. It consists of restricting caloric intake to reduce weight. However, statistics indicate that teens experience anorexia relatively rarely. Some warning signs of teenage anorexia include sudden weight loss, avoidance of eating in front of others and adopting very strict diets.
  • Bulimia nervosa in teens is slightly more common than anorexia. Bulimia is characterized by a cycle of excessive eating followed by purging, caloric restriction or over-exercising. Bulimia nervosa may be harder to initially recognize because teenagers with bulimia do not experience weight loss nearly as drastically as teens with anorexia. Common signs of bulimia include eating large amounts at once, going to the bathroom soon after eating, use of laxatives, overexercising and oral decay.
  • Binge eating disorder in teens is much more common than other eating disorders at this age. This disorder is characterized by eating large portions of food in a short period of time, often while experiencing the feeling of being out of control. Teenage binge eating may be identified by weight gain, poor dietary habits, and feelings of extreme guilt.
  • Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is characterized by avoiding or severely restricting food intake. Unlike teens with anorexia, teens with AFRID do not restrict food to prevent gaining weight. Rather, they are typically averse to specific tastes and textures or may even fear gastrointestinal pain. Teens who were once picky eaters are at a higher risk of developing ARFID.

What Causes Eating Disorders in Teens?

Like many mental health disorders, eating disorders often result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While there is no single cause of eating disorders in adolescence, there are several risk factors that may contribute to eating disorders in teens. These risk factors include:

  • Societal pressure to be thin
  • Dissatisfaction with the body
  • Dieting
  • Bullying
  • Peer pressure

Other possible causes of eating disorders in teenage girls and boys include participation in sports which encourage a certain figure such as ballet, gymnastics, and wrestling.

Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders in Teens

Substance abuse and eating disorders frequently co-occur in teens. Some individuals with eating disorders misuse substances to suppress appetite. Alternatively, a person with an eating disorder may turn to substance use to cope with life situations. In some instances, substance use may be present before an eating disorder develops.

Recently, the prevalence of co-occurring alcoholism and eating disorders has received much attention. In what has been referred to as “drunkorexia” a person may reduce food intake to balance out the empty calories of alcoholic beverages.

Teenage Eating Disorders Treatment

Teenage eating disorder treatment may occur in a variety of settings, generally determined by the severity of the eating disorder. While outpatient care may be possible in some cases, treatment often occurs at special eating disorder treatment centers for teenagers. These inpatient facilities provide the care teens need to recover from an eating disorder.

In many cases, teens are diagnosed with more than one disorder. If a substance use disorder is present, it may be recommended that a teen goes to drug rehab first. In many substance use treatment facilities, treatment is available for co-occurring disorders. If you are considering treatment for your teen, reach out to a representative today to learn more about the options available.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


  • Rohde, Paul; Stice, Eric; Marti, Nathan C. “Development and Predictive Effects of Eating Disorder Risk Factors during Adolescence: Implications for Prevention Efforts.” International Journal of Eating Disorders, March 2015. Accessed September 30, 2019.
  • Swanson, Sonja A.; Crow, Scott J.; Le Grange, Daniel; et al. “Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in Adolescents Results From the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement.” Journal of the American Medical Association, July 2011. Accessed September 30, 2019.

We Heal Families Every Day. Let Us Help Yours.

We provide your child with care during their journey to recovery.

Your Child's Struggle Ends Now

Call today for a free assessment from our caring team of treatment specialists.

We are here to help 24/7 (863) 658-0495