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Adolescent Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can affect people at any age. However, the risk is higher for adolescents. In fact, according to an article published in Paediatrics & Child Health, eating disorders rank as the third most common illness among adolescent females. When these disorders are left untreated, they can lead to grave physical and psychological consequences for the sufferer. In the worst cases, untreated eating disorders can even be fatal for adolescents and children. Below is some basic information about these serious disorders and their effects on the adolescent population.

Adolescent Eating Disorders – Statistics

According to the National Institutes of Health, eating disorders affect approximately 2.7 percent of all adolescents. These disorders are more common among females, with an incidence rate of 3.8 percent. Male adolescents are affected at a rate of 1.5 percent. The rate of eating disorders rises in adolescents as they age. Among 13- and 14-year-olds, the incidence rate is 2.4 percent.

By the time adolescents are 17 or 18 years old, the incidence rate has increased to 3 percent. Other adolescents may have eating disorders that don’t fall into any specific category but still impact their mental and physical health. Eating disorders among adolescents have been on the rise in recent years.

Complications of Adolescent Eating Disorders

Eating disorders in children and adolescents can have a wide range of significant effects. Some of the potential complications of an eating disorder that isn’t promptly treated include:

  • Growth retardation – If an eating disorder develops during early adolescence, the individual may suffer from an irreversible slowing of normal growth and development.
  • Consequences for every organ system – A lack of food and/or the act of purging affects every organ system in the human body. The severity of these effects depends on the exact nature of the disorder.
  • Social isolation – Adolescents with eating disorders often become socially isolated, often because of an attempt to hide the disorder.
  • Family conflict – If parents and/or siblings notice the symptoms of an eating disorder and attempt to intervene in an unhealthy way, family conflict can result.

Many adolescents with eating disorders are also struggling with psychiatric illnesses at the same time, such as anxiety, depression or body dysmorphic disorder. These disorders also require appropriate treatment.

Treating Adolescents with Eating Disorders

With eating disorders on the rise in adolescents, understanding how to treat these disorders effectively is essential for treatment professionals and parents alike. Eating disorders typically stem from a combination of physical, psychological and social factors. Proper treatment of eating disorders in a child requires the treatment professional to understand and address all of these aspects of the illness. For example, an individual with an eating disorder may have concerns about his or her body that stem from social pressures, such as an unrealistic ideal of how the body should look and/or the effects of bullying. The adolescent may also have psychological problems that exacerbate the problem, such as depression. Furthermore, the individual’s eating disorder may have already developed physical problems related to his or her disorder that must be addressed during treatment.

Because of the multifaceted nature of eating disorders in teens, careful construction of teen eating disorder treatment plans is necessary. Treatment of eating disorders in a child must include both medical and psychological care.

Choosing a Treatment Program for Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents

Parents of children or adolescents with eating disorders are often responsible for choosing a child and adolescent eating disorder program for their child. However, with so many options available, it can be difficult to find the right program. In general, the best programs for eating disorders in teenagers are those that offer intensive medical and psychological treatment at the same time. The best programs, such as Monte Nido, will also have a solid reputation among past clients and a good success rate. In addition, treatment programs focused on eating disorders in teens are typically more successful if they are customized to meet the needs of each individual patient.