Teenage eating disorders are a group of mental health issues where someone puts too much focus on eating or not eating and their body image. Eating disorders can include many different types of eating disorder behaviors, but they all include anxiety disorders around food, poor body image, and low self-esteem. They are a disorder that is very easy for teens to hide - certainly in its early stages.
Many teens who struggle with eating disorders will be able to prevent their disorder from being noticed by those close to them because the signs and symptoms can masquerade as normal behaviors but just to an excessive degree.
Teens with eating disorders become masters at hiding it from others, but you may be able to spot some behavioral signs in a family member, such as:
Physical symptoms to be aware of are:
Eating disorders are behavioral responses to things that cause stress, anxiety, fear, or depression. Very often, it is a way for a teenager to create a sense of control in an environment where they feel they have very little agency, for example, at school.
Causes of eating disorders can include:
The three most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge-Eating Disorder.
Anorexia Nervosa is the most common eating disorder and is particularly prevalent in teens. It involves the restriction of calorie intake and often conducting excessive exercise, as there is a fear they may gain weight. Often, sufferers have a distorted body image - so what they see in the mirror is not real.
Young adults with Anorexia Nervosa may avoid eating in front of people and show obsessive behavior around calories or nutrition. They may exercise to excess, are on a diet plan even though they are slim, and wear baggy clothes to hide their body shape.
Bulimia Nervosa involves binge-and-purge behaviors. Young adults with this eating disorder will still eat and may even do so in front of people but will purge themselves afterward through self-induced vomiting or diet pills.
Teens with this eating disorder may also eat in secret, particularly at night, and have erratic eating behaviors that they keep private. After eating, they may go to the bathroom immediately. They may have cavities and discolored teeth caused by persistent vomiting.
Binge-eating disorder in adolescents manifests as the teen eating a large amount of food very fast, often to the point of discomfort, and then feeling guilt or shame around the behavior. It's often done in secret and followed by a period of restricting certain foods, dieting, and exercise, but not purging immediately afterward.
Beyond the recurring episodes of binge eating, signs and symptoms of this eating disorder are if your teen is stealing or hiding food in unusual places, fluctuations in weight, stomach cramps and digestive discomfort, and sudden lifestyle changes such as dieting and exercising.
Teen eating disorder treatment is therapy based. There are different therapies used in the treatment of eating disorders, and we will tailor a program to suit individuals using one or more of these therapies:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy designed to help patients reassess and relearn how they respond to stress, anxiety, and fear triggers. The enhanced type of CBT has been specially designed for eating disorders.
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a talking therapy designed to help patients relearn stress responses. However, DBT gives the most benefit to those who feel their emotions very strongly, so it can be particularly useful in treating an eating disorder.
As well as one-to-one sessions, we encourage group cognitive behavioral therapy to help our patients learn from each other and recover together. We also encourage our patient's family members to be involved in the recovery process with family therapy.
As eating disorders begin with poor nutrition, our nutritional counseling encourages patients to make healthy food choices, monitor for a healthy weight, and encourage improved health.
Other therapies involved in treating eating disorders include music, art, and adventure therapy. These offer something physically and mentally positive and can be used in helping create a healthy relationship with food, reducing anxiety and stress around food, and increasing the chances of sticking with eating disorder recovery in the long term.
We offer different eating disorder treatment options, which depend on the severity of the adolescents suffering, the nature of their eating disorders, and whether they have any co-occurring disorders or related behaviors.
This is often the best form of treatment for eating disorders as it allows for nutrition rehabilitation alongside therapy, ensuring that adolescent patients gain or lose weight as appropriate. We can monitor their physical health and ensure there are no physical complications during the treatment process when we are caring for them onsite.
Our residential treatment program uses traditional therapies such as enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy, but we also provide experimental therapies such as art, music, and adventure therapies. We advocate for family-based treatment, ensuring our teens have the support of their families, who take an active role in their recovery journey.
We do offer an intensive outpatient program for those who may not need or suit inpatient care. This provides access to the therapies we offer through our tailored recovery plan, including CBT, DBT, and group and family therapy, and can allow the adolescent to stay at home and in school if they feel more comfortable.
The most important thing you can do for your teen is to show them that they are supported and that they are not alone in their suffering. Many teens feel shame around eating disorders, but by showing them that you can be trusted and that we can all help them, they will be more open to seeking recovery.
Though there is a risk of relapse, there is every chance that with our tailored treatment plan designed by our team of care professionals and certified therapists, your teen will make a full recovery. Our treatment team will use evidence-based treatment to help your teen learn the skills necessary to recover from their eating disorder and have a healthier future.
Sometimes it is necessary for your child to be in our inpatient program so that we can monitor their recovery, weight gain, and any co-occurring disorders. It is also vital for us to ensure they don't simply become better at hiding their eating disorder or develop new eating disorder behaviors which are easier to hide.
Medication is not typically used for eating disorder treatment, but instead, we use talk therapy such as CBT and DBT, and we also use nutritional counseling, which will treat the mental health disorder and help your teen work towards a successful treatment with long-term positive effects.
No, we do not use prescription drugs or medication in relation to our teen eating disorder treatment, only therapies and nutrition rehabilitation. If there is a co-occurring mental health condition such as anxiety or substance abuse, we may include pharmacological therapy as part of the treatment program, but it is not necessary for an eating disorder alone.
Our family therapy sessions will be a great way for you to learn the skills and techniques to help your teen assimilate into their normal life again without the risk of relapse. You will be given all the tools you need by our licensed therapists and care providers during the sessions and throughout the family-based treatment program.
As family members, you may be worried about your teen - call us today and learn more about our teen eating disorder treatment plan and medical care - we are here to help.