While eating disorders can certainly affect males and females of all ages and backgrounds, the average age of onset for Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and disordered eating takes place during adolescence. Although eating disorders are usually a result of a number of personal, environmental, psychological, biological and social factors, it seems that adolescents are the most at-risk group of people in developing an eating disorder, and this is due to a number of factors.

The period of adolescence is one of intense change which can bring with it a great deal of stress, confusion and anxiety for many. The physical transformation that takes place during this time is enormous and often intertwined with feelings of self-consciousness, low self esteem and comparison with peers. In addition there are hormonal and brain changes taking place which affect a person physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically. There is also the issue of social and environmental change, with the period of early adolescence often being a time when a person will change schools, friendship groups and perhaps develop an interest in the opposite or same sex. All in all, adolescence is a time where many big changes take place in a seemingly short period of time whereby a person may feel tremendous pressure to find their place in the world despite a great deal of confusion, and a sense of feeling ill-equipped or welcome to the plethora of changes around them.

In light of the stress and confusion that accompanies the period of adolescence, it is little surprise that an individual may struggle to deal with the whirlwind of change, uncertainty and often low self esteem. Eating disorders are very often a coping mechanism for people to attempt to gain control of their situation when they feel helpless in the face of other aspects of their life. When this quest for control goes too far, the risk of developing an eating disorder dramatically increased.

In addition, body image concerns and peer pressure are heightened during the period of adolescence, and are potential risk factors in the development of an eating disorder.

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