Supporting Your Teenager With an Eating Disorder: A Guide for Parents

It’s no secret that eating disorders are on the rise, especially among teenage girls. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 5.2 percent of teens suffer from an eating disorder at some point during their high school years. If you suspect your teenager may be suffering from anorexia, bulimia, or any other type of eating disorder, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Here are some tips on how you can help your teen get the treatment they need:

Talk to Your Teen

The first step is to talk to your teenager about their eating habits and body image. Suppose they are resistant to talking about it. In that case, you can try approaching the subject indirectly by asking general questions about their health and wellness. Some questions you may ask are:

  • How are you feeling?
  • Do you like your appearance?
  • Are you happy with how you look?
  • What do you think about your body?

Additionally, teens are often highly influenced by their parent’s attitudes and behaviors. So if you’re constantly dieting or complaining about your weight, your teen may internalize those negative messages. That’s why you need to be a good role model when it comes to food and body image.

A good role model for your teen is someone who is comfortable in their skin and accepts themselves for who they are. They don’t need to be perfect, and it’s okay to make mistakes. They should also be a healthy role model, meaning they eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. Teens are more likely to adopt healthy behaviors if they see their parents doing the same.

It’s also important to be positive about your body. Don’t talk negatively about your appearance or weight in front of your teen. If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, seek professional help. Your teen must see that you’re taking steps to get better and that you’re committed to getting healthier.

Seek Medical Help

A teen talking to a psychologist

If you suspect your teenager has an eating disorder, the next step is to make an appointment with their pediatrician or a mental health professional who specializes in treating eating disorders. The earlier the problem is identified, the easier it will be to treat.

During the appointment, the doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask questions about your teenager’s eating habits and weight history. They may also ask about any psychological factors that may be contributing to the problem, such as depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem. Based on this information, they will be able to diagnose whether or not your teen has an eating disorder and develop a treatment plan accordingly.

One of the most important things you can do to help your teenager during treatment is to be supportive and positive. Eating disorders can be extremely difficult to overcome, so your teen needs a strong support system. You can also help by monitoring their progress and providing encouragement along the way.

If you need help finding a mental health professional who specializes in treating eating disorders, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has a directory of qualified professionals. You can also check with your pediatrician or local hospital for recommendations.

Get Treatment

Eating disorders can have serious consequences on a person’s physical and emotional health, so getting help as soon as possible is essential. Treatment options vary depending on the type of eating disorder.

Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa Treatment

One common therapy used to treat anorexia and bulimia is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy helps the person understand and change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their eating disorder. It can be helpful for teens who are resistant to change or feel ashamed about their eating disorder.

Another common therapy for anorexia and bulimia is family-based treatment (FBT). This type of treatment involves the family in the healing process and helps them learn how to provide support for their loved one. FBT has been shown to be effective in restoring weight and improving psychological outcomes.

Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

Treating binge eating disorder can be difficult, but it’s important to seek help if you think your teenager is struggling with this disorder. Early intervention is key, so getting started as soon as possible is important.

Your teenager’s therapist will work with you and your child to develop a binge eating disorder treatment plan that meets their specific needs. The goal of treatment is to reduce the number of binge-eating episodes, the amount of food consumed during each binge, and the psychological distress related to binge eating.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating eating disorders. However, the treatment typically involves a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, and medical intervention. Individual therapy focuses on addressing the underlying psychological issues that are driving the disordered eating behavior. Group therapy can provide support and peer influence during recovery. If you think your teenager would benefit from therapy, talk to their doctor about getting a referral to a therapist specializing in treating eating disorders.

Medical intervention may be necessary if your teenager is severely malnourished or experiencing other physical health problems as a result of their disorder. With proper treatment, most teenagers can return to healthy eating habits and maintain a positive body image.

Eating disorders are serious problems that can have devastating consequences if left untreated. If you think your teenager may suffer from anorexia, bulimia, or any other eating disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. The sooner they get treatment, the better their chances of making a full recovery.


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