Treatment – Teen Eating Disorders
Teen eating disorders can be physically and emotionally devastating. Symptoms such as extreme weight loss, changes in countenance and appearance, physical exhaustion, and/or anxiety and depression are dangerous for teens and frightening for parents. When it comes to teen eating disorders, professional support is needed.
Most parents do not realize how common teen eating disorders are. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, as many as 10 in 100 young women suffer from an eating disorder. And many teenage boys suffer as well.
In most cases, the onset of eating disorders occurs in adolescence or early adulthood. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency reports that 95 percent of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.
Teen Eating Disorder Statistics
- 30 million people in the US currently suffer from an eating disorder.
- Half of these people also meet the criteria for depression.
- Among high school students, 44 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys are trying to lose weight at any given time.
- Only 10 percent of people with eating disorders receive treatment.
- 35 percent of normal dieters progress to obsessive, pathological dieting, and 20 to 25 percent of pathological dieters progress to an eating disorder.
- Every 62 minutes, a person dies because of an eating disorder.
- The teen anorexia mortality rate for females is 12 times higher than the rate of all causes of death for teen girls.
- Half of teens with anorexia or bulimia have a full recovery.
This last statistic is vitally important. Despite the extent and the danger of teen eating disorders, there is hope.
What Are Teen Eating Disorders?
Teen eating disorders are mental health challenges. Hence, teen eating disorders produce extreme disturbances in teenage eating behaviors. These disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder.
Adolescents with teen eating disorders tend to be moody, anxious, and/or depressed. Indeed, most adolescents suffering from teen eating disorders will deny that they have a problem. In many cases, they’ll blame everything but their relationship to food.
Adolescents suffering from teenage eating disorders often tell a common story. Once the eating disorder takes hold, they feel trapped. Hence, they think nobody can help them.
However, as we all know, eating is a part of daily life for everyone. Therefore, the lives of adolescents with teenage eating disorders revolve around suffering. As a consequence, nothing is more important to them than obeying the twisted rules of the eating disorder. Soon, everyday thoughts and perceptions are dominated by the teen eating disorder.
Many young people struggle with eating and body image issues. But it’s important to learn how to identify the difference between these issues and a teen eating disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Teen Eating Disorders
Without question, teen eating disorders have become common in this country. Hence a parent needs to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Thus, you need to understand the range and severity of teenage eating disorders.
When it comes to learning the signs and symptoms of a teen eating disorder, it’s helpful to understand that these disorders produce both behavioral signs and physical symptoms.
Behavioral Signs of Teen Eating Disorders
- Making excuses to avoid eating
- Always on a diet, even when not needed
- Over-exercising; obsessed with exercise to lose weight
- Secretly storing food or eating alone, particularly at night
- A distorted body image; body dysmorphia (an obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in one’s appearance)
- Compulsive use of laxatives, diet pills, and weight-loss aids
- An intense, obsessive focus on calories and caloric intake
- An unwillingness to discuss weight gains or weight losses
- Resistance to joining social situations where eating is expected
- Extended bathroom use during or right after meals
These behavioral signs can appear in adolescent girls and boys going through normal child development. Still, when teens repeatedly exhibit a number of these behaviors, parents should investigate further. Warning signs of a teen eating disorder need to be heeded.
Physical Symptoms of Teen Eating Disorders
- Unhealthy loss or gain of weight
- Repeated weight cycling, going up and down
- Constipation or vomiting
- Skin rash or dry skin
- Erosion of tooth enamel; dental cavities
- Loss of hair and/or nail quality
- Obvious signs of exhaustion, insomnia
- Irregular menstruation or absence of menstruation
- Easily bruised; more prone to physical injury
- Cold sensitivity; unable to tolerate cold
Most Common Types of Teen Eating Disorders
The three most common types are teen anorexia nervosa, teen bulimia nervosa, and teen binge-eating disorders.
Teen Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is the most well-known eating disorder. In addition, it has the highest death rate of any mental disorder, resulting from starvation, metabolic collapse, or suicide.
The Greek word anorexia means “without appetite”; the Latin word nervosa means “nervous condition.” Anorexia nervosa was first recognized as a medical condition in the Victorian era. In fact, Queen Victoria’s personal physician, Sir William Gull, established the condition as part of the official medical lexicon in 1873.
From the onset, teenage anorexia is defined by three key features. An adolescent suffering from teen anorexia eats less and less, has a distorted body image, and is intensely afraid of gaining weight or becoming fat.
Often, such a fear makes little or no sense. In many cases, the teen may weigh less than what is normal for their age, height, and gender.
However, this is not always the result. Often, adolescents suffering from teen anorexia maintain a relatively normal weight for some time. Indeed, an adolescent can suffer from teen anorexia without appearing anorexic at all.
Even if a teen with anorexia is not drastically losing weight, it’s important to catch the teen eating disorder early, to prevent permanent physical damage. Therefore, knowing the signs and symptoms of teen anorexia can help.
Signs and Symptoms of Teen Anorexia
- Severe dieting or extremely restrictive eating habits
- Obsessive fear of putting on weight
- Low self-esteem tied to body dysmorphia
- Lethargy and general exhaustion
- Muscle wasting and extreme thinness
- Problems concentrating, combined with extreme sensitivity
Although these are only some of the symptoms, they are often the easiest ones for a parent to notice. Indeed, when it comes to teen anorexia, it’s always better to be safe.
Teen Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia is a Greek word meaning “ravenous hunger.” Also called binge-purge syndrome, teen bulimia nervosa is a habitual disturbance in eating behaviors. As a result, teen bulimia is characterized by frequent episodes of excessive food intake. These episodes are followed by self-induced vomiting or some other method of purging the food from the body, such as laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills.
Adolescents suffering from teenage bulimia often maintain a normal weight or are even overweight. To help, here are some of the signs and symptoms of teen bulimia:
Signs and Symptoms of Teen Bulimia
- Repeated binge eating, particularly of junk foods and sweets
- Constant trips to the bathroom during and after meals
- Excessive buying and use of laxatives, diuretics, and/or diet pills
- A sore throat for no obvious health reason, with swollen salivary glands in the neck and the jaw
- Indigestion, acid reflux, and gastrointestinal problems
- Gum disease, bad teeth, and bleeding gums
Although these are only some of the symptoms, they tend to be the easiest ones for a parent to notice. When it comes to teen bulimia, it’s always better to act as early as possible.
Teen Binge-Eating Disorder
Teen binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. When an adolescent rapidly eats large amounts of food to the point of discomfort, teen binge-eating disorder is often the problem.
However, teen binge-eating disorder can be mistaken for something else. Indeed, it is easy to mistake the behavior as overeating or indulgence. But in truth, from a mental health perspective, teen binge-eating disorder is much more dangerous than simply overeating.
In terms of overeating compulsively, teen binge-eating disorder resembles teen bulimia. But unlike teen bulimia, teen binge-eating disorder does not include regular purging.
In fact, teen binge-eating disorder is not always focused on questions of weight. Adolescents with teen binge-eating disorder tend to stay at a normal weight or be overweight.
Signs and Symptoms of Teen Binge-Eating Disorder
- Repeated binge-eating episodes
- Eating more rapidly and aggressively than normal
- Claiming to be full, but continuing to eat
- Expressions of disgust or regret after binge-eating
- Weight cycling or weight gain
- High cholesterol and high blood pressure
As with teen anorexia and teen bulimia, early intervention is critical.
Risk Factors and Causes of Teen Eating Disorders
There is no single risk factor that causes a teen eating disorder. Rather, most research has shown that multiple risk factors tend to be involved.
Heredity plays a role. Eating disorders often aggregate in families. Studies of twins reveal that genetic factors account for 40 to 50 percent of eating disorder risk factors, including teen anorexia, teen bulimia, and teen binge-eating disorder.
2) Brain Functioning
There is a connection between eating disorders and brain functioning. Imaging studies have linked eating disorders to irregular brain activity patterns.
3) Perfectionism and Psychological Factors
A recent study linked eating disorders to perfectionism in teens. For some teens, eating disorders can be fueled by parental expectations and rigid thinking patterns.
4) Childhood Trauma
A history of childhood trauma can increase a teen’s risk of developing a teenage eating disorder. A childhood trauma left unresolved is a major red flag. Experiencing traumatic events as a teenager can raise the risk level as well.
5) Social Factors and Peer Pressure
Early childhood obesity combined with teasing by peers is a substantial risk factor. In addition, teens are negatively impacted by media images idealizing bodies that are thinner than average.
Boys and Teen Eating Disorders
Parents need to know that teen eating disorders are not gender-specific. Both teen girls and teen boys can suffer from an eating disorder. In fact, it happens to boys more often than you might think.
For example, 25 percent of children with teen anorexia are boys.
Moreover, 33 percent of teen boys admit to using unhealthy methods to control their weight. Such methods include smoking cigarettes, doing illegal drugs to curb their appetite, skipping meals, and misusing laxatives or diet pills.
In the general population, men make up 10 to 15 percent of those suffering from anorexia or bulimia. The percentages are higher in teens.
As with teen girls, the importance of early intervention cannot be overemphasized. If you suspect something is wrong, the time to act is now.
The Importance of Early Intervention
Given the dangers of teen eating disorders, early intervention is crucial. Indeed, the salient goal is to address the problem in the beginning of its development, before long-term health consequences emerge. If not addressed, teen eating disorders can lead to permanent health consequences and even death.
Even when not visually apparent, a teen eating disorder remains life threatening. Consequently, a teen eating disorder requires proactive action. It cannot be ignored as a passing phase. In most cases, the longer it continues, the more dangerous the disorder becomes.
To complicate the challenge even further, teens with eating disorders can be deceptive and secretive. Silently suffering, adolescents with eating disorders learn how to cover up the signs of a teen eating disorder. Very often, teen eating disorders hide in plain sight.
Particularly with teen eating disorders, professional support is critical.
“It is our mission to provide the most comprehensive, impactful treatment for teens to sustain long-term recovery. We enable young people to move out of the darkness and into the light, into happy, fulfilling lives.”
—Jamison Monroe, Jr., Newport Academy Founder & CEO
Teen Eating Disorder Support at Newport Academy
Newport Academy offers a holistic approach to teen treatment for mental health challenges and substance use disorders. We provide the highest-quality care using evidence-based methods. Our staff and clinicians are among the elite in their respective fields.
First, we help your child break the deadly cycle of a teen eating disorder. Then, we treat the underlying causes. Residential treatment allows teens to heal without the distractions of everyday life and provides a nourishing, empathic community.
With a teen eating disorder, we emphasize not only clinical therapy, but also the importance of good nutrition and a comprehensive approach to health. We incorporate evidence-based clinical and experiential therapeutic modalities. Our approach fosters true long-term recovery from teen eating disorders.
Therapy for Teen Eating Disorders
Several different forms of individual and group therapy help foster sustainable healing from a teen eating disorder:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT brings clarity and valuable insight for a teen in crisis. CBT identifies the emotions that often result in a sense of isolation. It addresses in a positive way the self-defeating thoughts and assumptions that make life more difficult.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT provides specific skills like mindfulness and emotional regulation. These skills can be used right away and become stronger with practice.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): MET leads to transformation and healing by helping teens make positive choices.
- Experiential therapies are particularly powerful for teens with eating disorders. These include adventure therapy, art therapy, music therapy, and Equine-Assisted Therapy. These modalities help teens explore their emotions and build strength through creative expression and somatic integration.
- Mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation have been shown to be effective in combating teen eating disorders.
At Newport Academy, we create a personalized treatment plan for each teen that includes a mix of these modalities.
“At Newport Academy, we can use unique and cutting-edge treatment approaches that would take the state years to employ. Clients receive the best, most effective, and most individualized treatment possible.”
—Helene D’Jay, Newport Academy Clinical Director, East Coast Campus
Do We Use Prescription Drugs to Treat Teen Eating Disorders?
Prescription medication is rarely the answer to teen eating disorders. We believe in approaches that have no dangerous side effects.
In some cases, drugs can be helpful to stabilize a teen in crisis. Short-term use of prescription medication can address depression or anxiety issues, in order to give a teen the space to do the real work.
Newport Academy uses medications only in conjunction with psychotherapy and other scientifically validated treatment modalities. We believe that developing new, positive behaviors and greater self-understanding is what creates long-lasting emotional stability.
Kindness and Compassion Help Struggling Teens
Sometimes, it is hard for parents to remain calm and accepting when faced with a teen eating disorder crisis. They are tired and, often, they are scared.
At Newport Academy, our staff’s clinical expertise is matched only by their compassion. We provide unconditional love that supports teen’s self-worth and self-acceptance as they do the work of healing.
We empathize with parents’ need to make sure their child is safe and protected. You can trust us to provide the answers and solutions that you are looking for—and the caring that your teen needs to succeed.
What Makes Our Residential Treatment Program Different?
Our priority is to offer the most effective personalized treatment available. Your teen’s individualized treatment program will be multifaceted and diverse.
Indeed, we don’t believe in “one-size-fits-all.” We tailor an individualized care plan to meet your teen’s needs, strengths, and challenges. Everyone is different, and we understand that.
Upon admission, your teen will be assigned an eight-person treatment team. This team develops a customized program to promote your child’s growth and sustainable healing.
Furthermore, the success of your teen is very important to us. You are trusting Newport Academy with your child, and we highly prize and value that trust.
We have achieved an unparalleled success rate since our founding: 85 percent of our teens complete the Newport Academy program. Hence, the vast majority goes on to truly thrive. Your teen can be healthy again, and your family can be whole again.
Please contact us to learn more about Newport Academy’s comprehensive approach to treating teen eating disorders. Call us at 877-959-0904. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To achieve a track record of excellence, Newport Academy has a 4–1 staff-to-client ratio.
Experience has shown us that Newport Academy’s treatment programs work. But the most important thing is for you to find the help your child needs. If Newport Academy is not the right fit, then we will help you find a solution that works for you. We want your family and all families to begin the journey to healing and happiness.
We realize that the hardest part of seeking treatment is to
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Learn More About What We Treat
Teen Depression is more common than you think. The life of a teenager can be hard. First, physical changes and increasing social pressures equal hard challenges. When you add in the quest for an identity, kids have a lot on their plate. Is it surprising that so many suffer from teen depression?
Addressing the need for teen mental health treatment is tough for any family. Every parent wants their children to be healthy, whole, and happy. That’s why the Newport Academy Treatment Team’s approach to teen mental health challenges begins with love, support, and acceptance.
Diagnoses We Treat
Other Teen Disorders
- Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Multiple Personality Disorder
- Delusional Disorder
- Psychotic, Psychosis
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Brief Psychotic Disorder
- Schizoaffective Disorder
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
- Thought Disorder
- Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
- Gender Identity Disorder
- Gender Dysphoria
- Parental Alienation
- Parent-Child Relationship Issues
- Family Relationship Issues
- Anger issues
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Social Anxiety
- Panic Attacks
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Anxiety Attacks