Sadly, many people around the world will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life; this can result in negative consequences for the affected person’s life going forward. An eating disorder can take over an individual’s life completely, and he or she often does not realise the damage that is being done. This illness is one that also affects the person’s loved ones; in many cases, the family members will become extremely distressed or frustrated watching their loved one struggle with this issue, especially if he or she seems unwilling to do anything to overcome it. This can put a strain on relationships and may even cause irreparable damage.

With eating disorders capable of affecting so many lives apart from that of the affected person, experts are constantly looking at factors that can cause the illness. One recent discovery seems to point to the fact that teenage girls who consume a lot of alcohol are more likely to suffer from an eating disorder.

Body Image Behavioural Misperception

New research has suggested that teenage girls who began consuming excessive amounts of alcohol from a young age are more likely to suffer from an eating disorder in later life when compared to those who do not. Researchers examined the data of 6,579 schoolgirls aged between fourteen- and eighteen-years-old and found that 27.5% were found to have a body image behavioural misperception (BIBM). This is where these young teens will actively try to lose, gain or maintain their weight despite there being no medical requirement for them to do so.

Heavy Drinkers

More than two-thirds of the teens that took part in the study admitted to having had at least one drink in their life. When researchers explained the definition of ‘heavy drinking’ to be that the individual would have consumed more than five alcoholic beverages in less than two hours; 17.8 per cent agreed that they fell into this category. The study found that those who had a BIBM were 1.21 times more likely to have consumed alcohol compared to those who had no eating disorders. The same group of people were also 1.22 times more likely to have consumed alcohol excessively over the past thirty days.

Risk Behaviours

Links were established between smoking and being sexually active before the age of 13 with BIBMs. The research also highlighted that white teenage girls who had BIBMs were more likely to drink excessively compared to others of different ethnicities and races. Study author Professor Margie Skeer of Tufts University School of Medicine Massachusetts, said, “Negative self-image can lead to negative behaviours. Body image and behavioural misperception occurs when actions are taken based on a perceived weight status or body image. We found significant relationships between this misperception and reporting ever having had alcohol, as well as reporting episodic heavy drinking among high school girls. Paying attention to this behaviour in this population could help identify factors supporting the relationship between this misperception and drinking, as well as other risk behaviours, beyond high school.”

Coping Mechanism

Anna Schlissel, study author and masters’ student at Tufts University, explained, “We are beginning to understand how the relationship between BIBM and alcohol use is manifesting. Next up is to figure out when the relationship is developing and what is further driving it. Further longitudinal research examining excess alcohol use as a coping mechanism or as a way to gain or lose weight, as well as underlying risk factors in childhood, may shed more light on this relationship.”

Eating Disorders and the Media

Eating disorders are more common among young females, but this does not mean the illness does not affect males too. Many eating disorders stem from the way that the media portray the ‘ideal body’ – with stick thin models and celebrities promoting the latest diet fad, it is no wonder many individuals are feeling self-conscious. Unrealistic body images promoted by the media are one of the primary reasons so many young people feel that they have to change the way they look to fit in with what is ‘socially acceptable’.

Help and Support with Eating Disorders

If you are a worried parent suspecting your teenager may be suffering from an eating disorder, then contact us here at Liberty House today. We will ensure that your teen feels comfortable and safe in our clinic should treatment be required and that they fully understand the nature of their eating disorder and how this can be overcome.

Our main aim is to ensure that every patient leaves our clinic as a healthier and happier person who is free of their eating disorder. Our staff are friendly and welcoming; this is often enough to reassure the individual that he or she is in safe hands. If you require more information or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us today.

Source:  Girls who drink booze at a young age are more likely to develop eating disorder  (