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Why Is Early Intervention Important for Eating Disorder Recovery?

The subject of adolescents and eating disorders can be a tough subject for parents to address, but with the help of early intervention, there is an opportunity to make a full recovery. However, finding the best eating disorder treatment that is geared toward teens and young adults is also important for success. In many cases, people who have eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa do not realize just how serious their condition is. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate out of any other mental illness. Whether parents have just recently noticed possible warning signs of an eating disorder or they have been worried about their child for some time, they should reach out to discuss the benefits of adolescents eating disorder therapy as soon as possible.

Eating disorders affect people of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities and sexual orientations. But, they almost always begin to develop in adolescence or early adulthood. While both women and men develop eating disorders, women are diagnosed at a much higher rate than men. The longer a person has an eating disorder, the more ingrained their disordered behaviors can become, making treatment a much more involved process. Additionally, the long-term negative health effects associated with eating disorders can become more severe over time. Both education for families and prevention are so important to early intervention and a successful, lasting recovery.

Understanding the Benefits of Early Intervention: How Do Eating Disorders Develop?

Eating disorders develop due to an obsession with appearance, weight and food. Over time, these obsessions can become so strong that people experience disruptions in their personal relationships, work and school, physical and mental health and daily activities. While research has shown most eating disorders first develop in childhood, there is still much that is unknown about why they develop. Most research suggests the development of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, stem from a variety of different factors including low self-esteem, peer pressure, childhood obesity and child abuse. Some of the biggest risk factors for developing an eating disorder include:


As more research is completed surrounding eating disorders, evidence suggests people can be born with certain genotypes that make them more susceptible to developing an eating disorder. In fact, if a parent or other family member has previously had an eating disorder, children are seven to twelve times more likely to develop one as well.


Genetics can also play a role in the development of certain eating disorders based on personality traits. For example, if a child is more inclined toward perfectionism, obsessive thinking, impulsivity or hypersensitivity, they may be more likely to develop an eating disorder at some point in their lives.


Brain imaging studies show people with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder may be dealing with an altered brain circuitry that relates to eating disorders. This biological evidence could explain why people who have anorexia nervosa are able to restrain from eating for extended periods of time or why those with binge eating disorder are capable of overeating, even when they are not psychically hungry.


Many children are exposed to trauma at an early age that could lead to the development of an eating disorder. Traumatic events often bring up feelings of guilt, shame and a lack of self-control. In an attempt to regain control of their feelings or to cope with negative feelings, children may develop disordered behaviors surrounding food and weight loss. In fact, studies show that as many as 50 percent of people with an eating disorder also have some type of trauma disorder.

Peer Pressure/Sociocultural Ideals

The media’s obsession with having the “perfect” body is something that can leave lasting effects on people of all ages and genders. With the increased use of airbrushing and Photoshop used in nearly every form of advertising, today’s children are growing up with a skewed view of unattainable beauty standards. With unrealistic body ideals to compare themselves to, many young teens may feel a great deal of pressure to look like the people they see online and in the media.


In the United States alone, more than $60 billion is spent on dieting and weight loss products annually. However, what most people do not know is that the failure rate of fad dieting is anywhere from 95 to 98 percent. Even so, people continue taking extreme measures and using potentially dangerous dieting products in an effort to attain an “ideal” body shape. Research shows that most young girls start dieting by age eight and 80 percent of ten year old girls have already been on one or more diets.

What Should Parents and Loved Ones Do if They Suspect an Eating Disorder?

Early intervention is an important part of a successful eating disorder treatment plan. While adolescents with eating disorders may try to hide their symptoms from those around them, there are plenty of warning signs that parents should be on the lookout for. Some of the most common signs of adolescents and eating disorders include:

  • Constant or repetitive dieting
  • Evidence of vomiting or laxative use
  • Hiding, hoarding or stealing food
  • Excessive exercise patterns, including exercising when ill or injured, in bad weather or skipping social commitments to exercise
  • Developing rituals surrounding food and meal times like excessive chewing, eating foods in a specificorder, eating in secret or eliminating certain foods altogether
  • Avoids eating with others or cooking meals for others without eating
  • Obsession with body weight and shape
  • Withdrawing from friends, sports or other social activities
  • Sudden or rapid weight loss, frequent fluctuations in weight
  • Irregular menstrual periods or loss of menstrual periods post-puberty
  • Depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, moodiness and irritability

If parents or other loved ones notice any combination of these early warning signs of adolescents with eating disorders, it is recommended they speak to their child about the benefits of eating disorder counseling.

What Are the Benefits of Early Intervention for Eating Disorder Treatment?

Eating disorders are unique among other mental health disorders and can result in one or more physical health complications. This is one of the main reasons early intervention for obsessive eating disorder treatment is so important. Although talking about an eating disorder with a young teen can seem like a difficult and sensitive topic, parents should act quickly if they have concerns. The potential long-term health complications associated with eating disorders can be very serious. In fact, anorexia nervosa is the third most common chronic illness among young children and teens. Adolescents with eating disorders are at risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and organ failure. In extreme cases, these chronic health conditions can result in death. Young women who have anorexia nervosa have a mortality rate twelve times higher than their peers.

Research shows early identification and treatment of an eating disorder helps support recovery, reduce long-term health consequences and improve a person’s chances of avoiding relapse. When eating disorder treatments, such as family-based therapy, are introduced to adolescents within the first three years of their illness, they have a much greater chance of making a full recovery.

It is important for parents to educate themselves on the risks associated with eating disorders before speaking to their child, while keeping in mind that a swift intervention is crucial. If left untreated, eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, can become more severe and the child or adolescent may become less receptive to eating disorder counseling.

Finding Eating Disorder Treatment Near You

While most parents may start with an online search for “eating disorder treatment near me”, finding the best obsessive eating disorder treatment program can take some time. There is not one type of therapy that works for every patient, so parents should also be aware their children may be introduced to a variety of different methods within their treatment plan. There are different levels of care to consider before choosing an eating disorder treatment center. These levels of care include:

Inpatient Treatment

Typically within a hospital setting, this is an ideal level of care for teens who may need medical monitoring due to unstable vital signs, complications related to medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure and other acute health risks. Patients who seek inpatient treatment typically have a number of urgent psychiatric needs to consider. These often include co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, or complications related to self-harming and/or suicide. This is the most intensive level of care, providing patients with access to twenty-four-hour medical and mental health care in a comfortable and safe setting.

Residential Treatment

This level of treatment is less intensive than inpatient treatment, while still providing both medical and psychiatric care services. Although patients may not need emergency medical care in a residential treatment program, their eating disorder symptoms are typically severe enough that they can benefit from regular medical monitoring. Additionally, residential patients are not considered to be psychiatrically unstable, but are typically unable to engage in regular social, school and work environments. This type of treatment supports patients in their recovery; guiding them to nourish their bodies and learning and using new positive coping skills.

Intensive Outpatient or Day Treatment

Many eating disorder treatment centers offer a day treatment or outpatient treatment program designed to help patients who are medically and psychiatrically stable, but who need additional support in their recovery. Patients in day treatment do not need access to daily medical monitoring and have appropriately addressed any psychiatric symptoms, to the point they can transition back into their social, vocational and educational commitments.

Eating Disorder Treatment with Monte Nido and Affiliates

For more than two decades, Monte Nido and our affiliate programs have provided a safe, comfortable and home-like setting for people of all ages to begin on the road to recovery from their eating disorder. Founded by Carolyn Costin in 1996, Monte Nido offers a unique approach to eating disorder recovery that relies on the expertise of a diverse staff featuring medical doctors, recovered professionals, clinicians and nutritionists.

Working with a small number of clients at each of our associated treatment centers, Monte Nido is able to provide patients with highly-individualized treatment. This supportive approach to adolescent eating disorder treatment allows us to support our clients on the path to long-term recovery. Helping patients learn to utilize the right tools, skills and support, long-term recovery is possible with Monte Nido & Affiliates. Want to learn more about the benefits of early intervention for eating disorder recovery? Call 888.228.1253 or contact the admissions team at Monte Nido today for more information.