Discussing Binge Eating Disorder with Teens

Mother and daughter discussing Binge Eating Disorder

It can be intimidating approaching teens for any conversation, let alone one as serious as talking about Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Whether uncomfortable or not, opening up a non-judgmental and supportive dialogue and discussing Binge Eating Disorder with your teen is essential.

Educate Yourself

The good news is, by reading this article, you’re already doing that! No two eating disorders are alike. Therefore, you can read as much as you want and still not understand what your teen is going through. That being said, doing some reading about BED and other’s experiences of BED can be an excellent primer to engage in an open conversation about it.

These articles and insights into the experiences and symptoms of BED can help you to learn the language and behaviors associated with the disorder and may give you an idea of what you should, or shouldn’t say.

For example, it is critically important to avoid any emphasis on weight or size, as research indicates that parental conversations focused on this increase a child’s risks for disordered eating [1]. The same research has found that speaking with children about disordered eating and body image issues from a health and nutrition or emotional perspective has the opposite effect [1].

Then, Let Them Educate You

Maybe you’ve studied eating disorders before, perhaps you have similar experiences with distorted body image or self-view, maybe you’ve had an eating disorder before. These perspectives will be valuable. However, when opening up a dialogue and discussing Binge Eating Disorder with a teen about their struggle, let them teach you.

Don’t assume to know or exactly understand what they are thinking, feeling, or experiencing. Each individual will always be the most foremost expert on themselves. Imagine your teen as a chalk-outline of a person. Let them fill it in for themselves.

Be Open & Non-Judgmental

This should be an absolute priority.

Teens are at a development stage where they cater to an “Imaginary Audience,” that is, they feel as if everyone is watching them all the time, hypercritical of their appearance, performance, and behaviors [2].

Mother and daughter discussing self-harm and discussing Binge Eating DisorderBecause of this, they are sensitive to possible indications of judgment or minimizing. Be the person they can come to and know they will be supported and heard regardless of what they tell you.

Be Future-Focused

Struggling with BED is frightening, and your teen may be looking to you for guidance on what to do and how to get help. Be bright, hopeful, and empowered about the future, even if you have no idea what to do.

Assure your teen that you will both find out what to do together and that you are with them every step of the way. Ultimately, a conversation with your teen about signs, symptoms, behaviors, or experiences with BED can go in a million different directions.

Using the tips above doesn’t mean the conversation will go-off without a hitch, but they can help you to show your teen that they have a supportive, non-judgmental foundation no matter where this journey takes them.


[1] Berge, J. et al. (2013). Parent conversations about healthful eating and weight associations with adolescent disordered eating behaviors. JAMA Pediatrics, 167:8, 746-753.
[2] Vernon, A. (2009). More what works when with children and adolescents. Research Press.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: 

Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on May 22, 2019.
Reviewed & Approved on May 22, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.