People with an eating disorder have an unhealthy preoccupation with food and worry incessantly about their weight and eating habits. No matter what the disorder, it can erode a person’s self-esteem and their physical wellbeing. These consequences can be particularly devastating for teenagers, as their bodies and minds are still developing.
Getting proper treatment is essential for teens with an eating disorder. Treatment requires attention on the physical as well as the psychological aspects of the disease. Studies show that seeking treatment early makes recovery faster and more effective.
Methods of Eating Disorder Treatment
Inpatient treatment programs are widely available options to treat eating disorders. These programs require the patient to live at the treatment facility for a period of time. Outpatient programs, in which the patient continues to live at home and attend school normally, are also an option. Both types of care make use of the methods described below.
At the outset of treatment, the patient is often given a physical examination with blood tests to determine the degree of physical impairment that the eating disorder may have caused. For example, teens with anorexia or bulimia may have osteoporosis or vitamin deficiencies due to improper nutrition. Diagnosing and treating these medical ailments is a part of becoming healthy again.
Psychotherapy is an important part of treatment for any eating disorder. The teen often participates in individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy. The goals of these therapy sessions include:
Identifying any other mental health issues that may be present, such as anxiety or depressionImproving the teen’s self-esteem and body imagePromoting open communication within the familyTalking about emotions, family problems or issues at school that may be contributing to low self-worthTeaching the teen how to stop the negative thinking patterns that lead to destructive behaviors and feelings.
For many teens, their eating disorder is not just about food; it is about finding a way to cope with deeper emotional issues. Consequently, psychotherapy is frequently a crucial component of recovery.
Based on the assessments from the medical examination and the psychotherapy sessions, the doctor overseeing treatment may recommend certain medications to improve the teen’s condition. If the teen is diagnosed with depression or anxiety, for example, an antidepressant may help alleviate the symptoms of that condition. Medications to combat any physical maladies brought on by the eating disorder may also be necessary.
A registered dietician or counselor who has experience working with teens with eating disorders will oversee this part of the treatment process. The focus is on teaching healthy eating habits and clarifying some of the myths teens may have about dieting. The aim of nutritional education is to educate the teen about nutrition and give them a more appropriate definition of what it means to look and feel healthy.
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Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Anorexia nervosa. Retrieved September 10, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anorexia/DS00606.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Bulimia nervosa. Retrieved September 10, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bulimia/DS00607
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Eating disorders. Retrieved September 10, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eating-disorders/DS00294