Why Are So Many Teenage Girls Anorexic?

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When you combine a perfectionist personality type with an adolescent girl, the risk of her becoming anorexic is higher, a 2002 University of Florida study found. Anorexia is a serious problem, because people with this disease can develop heart problems, deteriorated muscles and osteoporosis. Anorexia is also subject to relapse and can even lead to death. You may have heard the old saying, “you can never be too thin.” In the case of anorexics, you certainly can.


Perfectionists

A person with anorexia is typically at least 15 percent underweight, is obsessed with dieting and feels that food controls her life. Because many people with anorexia are perfectionists, they feel like failures if they don’t meet their life goals, which are typically unattainable. They feel control over their bodies, though, and believe their weight goal is something they can achieve. They feel hungry, yet they don’t eat. This proves to themselves that they’re in control. Anorexics are using their preoccupation with food and their weight to avoid dealing with their emotional problems.

Social Class Differences

Social class differences may play a role in who becomes anorexic. Researchers once believed that girls from middle- and upper-middle-class backgrounds were more likely to become anorexic, but University of Florida researcher Dr. Julia Graber, feels social class is not necessarily a factor. No one knows for sure, though.

Fear of Fat

Anorexia can start with your daughter simply wanting to diet and exercise. But if this urge spirals out of control, she could be on her way to an eating disorder. If your daughter becomes anorexic, she probably has an extreme fear of becoming fat and she has a distorted view of her own body — sometimes believing that she’s fat when she’s really thin and frail. When she loses weight, it’s never enough. In fact, the more weight she loses, the more she wants to lose. Anorexics are typically depressed, but tell themselves that life will be wonderful after they lose more weight — only that day never seems to come.

Puberty

Some girls do not react well to puberty. They are afraid of the changes in their body and they don’t like the weight gain. By controlling their food intake and losing weight, some girls can actually stop puberty and their menstrual cycle.

Athletes

Some sports, such as dance, ice-skating and gymnastics may make a girl more vulnerable to anorexia because the weight gain changes their performance and the way they look while performing. Coaches, other team members or even you may encourage your daughter to remain thin, which might contribute to the problem.

Genetics

A genetic predisposition could cause anorexia. If anorexia runs in your family, your daughter is 10 to 20 times more likely than the general public to get it, according to Helpguide.org. Also, people with anorexia tend to have higher levels of cortisol, which is a hormone related to stress.

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