Disordered Eating Patterns to Be Aware of Among Adolescents

Adolescent boy in the phases of eating disorder recovery

With the general misconceptions that surround eating disorders, understanding the difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating can be confusing. Though both should be given equal attention, as identifying early patterns of disordered eating and putting appropriate interventions in place may help prevent eating disorders from developing in adolescents. So what exactly is disordered eating, and how can these signs be identified in adolescents?

Understanding Disordered Eating

Disordered eating may take many forms and can be defined as the behaviors and attitudes with regard to body perception, eating habits, weight regulation, and self-evaluation [1]. Furthermore, disordered eating can be a predictive factor of eating disorders, which can lead to potentially fatal consequences if left without any interventions [2]. Understanding how disordered eating behaviors and attitudes can occur within these categories can help in terms of better identifying abnormalities.

Some forms of disordered eating that may be commonly observed among adolescents may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Skipping meals
  • Obsessive calorie counting
  • Anxiety about eating certain foods or entire food groups
  • Inflexibility with meal times
  • Excessive or rigid exercise routine
  • Only eating certain foods repetitively
  • Disturbance in the way one experiences their body
  • Engaging in fad or crash diets
  • Negative body talk
  • Excessively weighing oneself

Adolescent in recoveryIf as a parent, you observe any of these behaviors in your adolescent, it is important to address these concerns. As adolescents grow into their own autonomy and spend more time at school and with friends, observing disordered eating behaviors may not be as apparent. Making regular time to connect with your children and having consistent meal time can help keep communication channels open and allow you the opportunity to check in about any concerns.

Seeking Out Professional Help

If you are unsure about certain behaviors that your child may be engaging in, consider seeking out the help of a professional or eating disorder specialist. Having a professional assessment can help you better understand what your child might be facing as well as recommendations for appropriate interventions.

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work and nutrition private practice.


[1]: Waaddegaard M, Thoning H, Petersson B. Validation of a screening instrument for identifying risk behaviour related to eating disorders. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2003;11(6):433–55. doi:10.1002/erv.537.
[2]: Smink FR, van Hoeken D, Hoek HW. Epidemiology of eating disorders: incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2012;14(4):406–14. doi:10.1007/s11920-012-0282-y.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer 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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 8, 2017
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com