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Teen, Adolescent and Children’s Eating Disorders

Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and compulsive overeating are concerns every parent hopes to avoid. But, when these eating disorders develop, there are some tremendously helpful eating disorder resources for parents, siblings, and other concerned family and friends. Eating disorder treatment is available for children and adolescents on an outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, and inpatient level. Perhaps, most helpful of all, some studies have shown that early intervention in the development of an eating disorder has the best likelihood of long term recovery.

Signs of Childhood and Adolescent Eating Disorders

Girls are far more likely to have eating disorders. However, boys are also susceptible. The following signs may help identify a child with an eating disorder:

  • eating in secret
  • preoccupation with food
  • calorie counting
  • fear of becoming fat
  • binge eating
  • purging
  • food phobias or avoidance

Understanding Food Phobiaspexels-photo-48607-medium

A fear of certain foods may be a telltale sign of an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. For example, high-fat foods may increase anxiety levels in some kids with eating disorders. By avoiding these foods, they learn they may temporarily keep their anxiety in check. This is known as “negative reinforcement.”

Eating disorders may deprive brain cells of needed energy and, eventually, change the way people process information. This change in brain chemistry is thought to contribute to food phobias and distorted thinking, especially in regard to one’s perceived body image.

Comprehensive Eating Disorders Treatment for Teens A Must

Untreated eating disorders may lead to significant medical complications. Therefore, receiving care from comprehensive eating disorders treatment programs is extremely important. Usually, this includes a medical doctor, a psychologist or therapist, a psychiatrist, a dietitian and a physical therapist. Families play an important role in treatment and recovery.

The first goal is to help children achieve a healthy weight. Often they require medical care to correct changes in metabolism or medical complications.

Eating disorders may damage the brain, heart, bones, kidneys and liver. Consequently, the medical team must regularly monitor children for related complications.

girl-sitting-posing-trees-mediumPsychologists or therapists help children with eating disorders cope with negative behaviors, distorted thinking patterns and any underlying issues that may have triggered the condition. For example, with cognitive behavioral therapy, patients learn to recognize situations that trigger eating disorder behaviors and then work to develop positive coping techniques. Dialectical behavior therapy is similar. It focuses on replacing negative coping strategies with more adaptive options.

Family involvement is critical

Families are an integral part of the treatment team. The chances that your loved one will recover from an eating disorder will be increased if the family is involved in supporting and treating the eating disordered individual develop and maintain coping strategies.  Children find it encouraging when family members are a part of their recovery efforts.

Articles on Children’s & Teens Eating Disorders

  • Our nation has turned increased attention and focus to childhood obesity; however these efforts are becoming harmful to our youth.  Children labeled as overweight or obese from a young age may be more likely to experience greater struggles in life, such as low body image, a poor relationship with food, or an eating disorder.
  • Just because a person is obese does not mean that they cannot develop an eating disorder. Nor, should someone’s eating disorder be overlooked because they are overweight. Unfortunately, this is sometimes the case with obese children or adults.
  • Bullying used to be confined to the schoolyard.  Not anymore.  Today, bullying is evidenced in every segment of society in every possible venue from professional sports events to city transit buses. Relational bullying is escalating at a rapid rate throughout our country. This is bullying that transpires within female friendships. The bullying starts very young, as early as second and third grade in children, and can have profoundly negative long-term consequences such as eating disorders.
  • Cultural and societal pressure can have significant impact on a young person’s developing self concept.  These pressures are evidenced in television programming, magazines and social media.  Understanding the influence these mediums have on our children is a step in the right direction toward understanding why certain kids may be vulnerable to developing eating disorders.  Also, this article discusses the signs and symptoms of eating disorders that concerned adults need to understand. Read more about children’s eating disorders in this article.
  • Children are increasingly developing eating disorders and there is a tremendous need for treatment for this special group.  Contributing factors such as: low self esteem, biological predisposition, cultural impact, trauma, and many other issues are behind eating disorders in kids.  Though anorexia and compulsive overeating are more commonly occurring among children ages 8 to 11 years, there are also cases of bulimia nervosa.  A psychiatrist explores and shares her observations in the successful treatment of eating disorders for children with bulimia in this article.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sydney Schuck February 16, 2015 at 7:24 am

@Jacquelyn Ekern
I just want to say thank you for this website. I’m 15 years old and I suffered from Anorexia Nervosa for a year, I was hospitalized for a month and sent to multiple treatment centers for it. It took over my life, and ruined me. I ruined myself. I just want to thank you. You make a lot of somebody’s feel like an actual somebody’s. If you ever need another writer, I have a lot of experience, as I do many talks and articles about this. I have references if you need them 🙂 Again, thank you so much. Keep doing what your doing, because your’e doing something good.

Mudi December 10, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Enjoyed this article thoroughly.

Caroline doyle April 20, 2016 at 5:13 pm

I’m a mother and a RGN with a thirteen year old daughter who stoped eating and drinking they hvt diagnosed yet but they say it comes inder restrictive eating disorder she lost two stone in weight in three months .We hve been in hospital out now .and I light a candle every day for her recovery .But I like to read sites like yours cause I find hope when I do .Bless u ThankYou.xxxx

Boo March 8, 2017 at 10:05 pm

Thank you for all this, my friend is wondering whether she has one or not so I had to find oout all the symptoms

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