KidsInTheHouse the Ultimate Parenting Resource
Kids in the House Tour

Adolescent Eating Disorder Therapy

eating disorder teen

Teenagers are under a variety of stressors in their daily lives. They may be balancing academics, athletics, family life, and socializing. They may also be dealing with mental health issues, hormonal fluctuations, and peer pressure. 

Teens need to do the right things to manage their wellness and well-being. Staying active, healthy eating, managing stress, getting enough sleep, having healthy relationships, and engaging in hobbies are all ways to optimize wellness, stay energized, and promote well-being. 

Parents may also be worried about the stresses and pressures that their children are facing. When it comes to health or wellness issues, one concern parents may have is: How long can a child stay on parent's health insurance

You can review your specific health insurance policies to see what the age requirements are for children remaining on a parent's health insurance, but the general guideline is that children have coverage until age 26. There are several therapy options with my insurance for example that offer affordable solutions for a variety of problems. 

Some of the issues that teens may be at risk for developing include eating disorders, body image issues, mental health issues, and other types of disordered eating. 

Social media, peer influence, and psychological issues can make adolescents at higher risk for exhibiting these conditions. Parents and family members should understand common eating disorders and the characteristics of each. 

What are common eating disorders? 

The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Each condition has different characteristics, signs, and symptoms. 

Anorexia nervosa occurs due to severe calorie restriction. Common signs are limited calorie intake or not eating enough food, self-starvation, overexercising, or using diet pills. Those affected by anorexia may have a fear of becoming “fat.” 

Individuals with anorexia nervosa may have a distorted body image and see themselves as overweight when they are underweight. They may exhibit a skeletal appearance and have lower than normal body fat. Anorexia can slow heart rate and blood pressure or cause electrolyte imbalances. 

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating or binge eating, followed by purging. Purging is typically done by vomiting or using laxatives. Regular vomiting can damage the esophagus, mouth, and teeth. 

Binge eating disorder is due to episodes of binge or compulsive eating without purging. This can lead to weight gain and increase the risk for many chronic diseases. 

There are other types of disordered eating patterns that are less common but can still affect teenagers. They are at higher risk for disordered eating patterns and eating disorders, so they need to be informed and understand the factors that contribute to eating disorders.  

Factors That Contribute to Eating Disorders 

Many factors can contribute to both eating disorders and disordered eating patterns. There is not one single factor that can lead to eating disorders, and it can vary greatly among individuals. 

First, most researchers believe that there is a genetic component and biological predisposition to eating disorders. Second, there are many sociocultural factors that can contribute to the development of eating disorders. Teenagers may feel pressure to be thin based on media messages or comparisons to others. 

Third, there is typically a psychological or mental health connection to eating disorders. Anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem can affect adolescents and be a factor that is related to eating disorders. 

While eating disorders are more common in young, white, middle- to upper-class people, anyone can develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders are also more common in females, but they can affect males as well. 

Athletes can also develop eating disorders. Athletes who participate in athletic events or sports where a small frame is important to performance, such as gymnastics, ballet, and wrestling, are at a higher risk for eating disorders.  

Warning Signs for Eating Disorders 

Sometimes it can be very difficult to tell if someone is being affected by an eating disorder. They may also hide certain behaviors, making it more difficult for friends and family to tell if they are exhibiting any warning signs. 

Teens can normally have eating issues, but there is a difference between an eating disorder and picky eating or irregular eating patterns. You need to know what to look for when it comes to abnormal or compulsive eating habits.

Many of those who are affected by eating disorders may be underweight or experience weight fluctuations. Refusal to eat, eating very little, and secretive eating may also be warning signs for eating disorders.

If a teen has an unhealthy obsession with food, weight, or eating, that could also be a warning sign. Distorted body image or dissatisfaction with their body, even with healthy body weight, can also be related to eating disorders. 

Hair loss may be caused by eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa due to nutrient deficiencies. Mood swings, withdrawal, and feeling anxious or depressed can also be associated with these conditions. 

Using diet pills or laxatives or overexercising can also be signs associated with eating disorders. Staying active and playing sports are beneficial in many ways for adolescents, but exercising too much can be dangerous. 

How are eating disorders diagnosed? 

While eating disorders are very serious and can be scary for teens and family members, the good news is that eating disorders can be treated. A multidisciplinary approach to treatment is the best option for successful recovery.

Mental health, nutrition, and medical professionals must work together to find an effective individual treatment plan. If an eating disorder is not treated, it can even be seen as a disability and could impact life insurance rates.

Treatment can be difficult because there is no one treatment plan or cure that works for every individual. A person who has been affected by an eating disorder may continue to struggle and work on improving their body image and relationship with food for many years. 

Finding a counselor or therapist that has vast knowledge in eating disorders is important to develop trust and work toward effective treatment. Continual therapy for adolescent eating disorders may be necessary for many years.

Eating Disorder Therapy 

Therapy for eating disorders depends on the individual’s needs. Some teens may find outpatient therapy helpful, while others may need residential treatment. 

A therapist or specialist in eating disorders therapy can be helpful to adolescents struggling with body image, eating disorders, or other types of disordered eating. They may work on developing a healthy relationship with food, helping to improve mental health, and nutritional counseling.

Melissa Morris's picture

Melissa Morris writes and researches for the insurance comparison site, She has a master of science degree in exercise science, is an ACSM certified exercise physiologist, and an ISSN certified sports nutritionist.