Avery’s House provides child and teen therapy for those struggling with eating disorders. Eating disorders include a range of unhealthy relationships with food and concerns about one’s weight.
Our country has seen a spike in the number of children, particularly girls, seeking treatment for eating disorders during and post-pandemic. According to the CDC, emergency room visits relating to eating disorders increased in children and teens in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
Types of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders involve an unhealthy preoccupation with food as well as an unhealthy body image. As many as 10 out of 100 women struggle with an eating disorder sometime during their lifetime.
Anorexia and bulimia are the two most commonly known eating disorders but others like binge eating and ARFID can affect children and teens alike.
Anorexia is characterized by a person eating very little. They usually have an intense, irrational fear of gaining weight or looking fat. They may have a distorted body image and see themselves as fat even though they are thin.
Children and teens with anorexia may think about food a lot, exercise a lot or try to use diet pills, laxatives, or other methods to maintain a low weight.
People with bulimia overeat and are usually unable to stop. After overeating, they will do things to compensate for the binge eating like making themselves throw up or excessively exercising to prevent themselves from gaining weight.
While adolescents with anorexia may be of lower body weight, those with bulimia can be of average weight or even be overweight. A sustained pattern of binging and purging that is often hidden from others is present during bulimia.
Much like during bulimia, binge eating occurs when a person consumes a great deal of food in a short period. Those who binge eat may feel guilty and depressed after they eat.
Unlike bulimia, those who binge eat do not take measures to counteract the overeating and usually become overweight. They may eat alone or hide their eating so others do not know.
If your child binge eats at least once a week over a sustained period, they may have a binge eating disorder.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)
Individuals with ARFID have an aversion to food for one reason or another. They may be uninterested in food or may be turned off by the smell, texture, or appearance of food.
Children with ARFID are not afraid of gaining weight but also do not gain the expected amount of weight normal for development. They also do not have other eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia that would explain their eating patterns.
Health Consequences of Eating Disorders
Each type of eating disorder comes with its own set of physical and mental health effects.
Anorexia leads to malnutrition that can have physical side effects like irregular periods, weak bones, delayed puberty, and slow growth. They may feel weak, dizzy, or faint.
Mentally, anorexia often is accompanied by feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. They may have thoughts of hurting themselves. If your child expresses a desire to hurt themselves, it should be treated as a medical emergency and help should be sought immediately.
It is important to realize that eating disorders can be fatal. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in individuals with anorexia and is elevated in those with bulimia and binge eating disorders.
Bulimia can have similar physical effects to anorexia if the person is not getting enough nutrition. If they are vomiting constantly, it can lead to tooth erosion and cavities.
Bulimia may also come with thoughts of self-harm and a negative body image. Substance abuse may also be present.
Binge eating can result in physical issues as a result of weight gain like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea.
Those who binge eat often face thoughts of hopelessness, and loneliness, and may have trouble coping with strong emotions.
Individuals diagnosed with ARFID face symptoms similar to anorexia from a lack of nutrition. It may be so severe that they may need nutritional intervention such as a feeding tube. Children with ARFID are also likely to have a co-occurring disorder like autism or ADHD.
What Causes Eating Disorders?
The cause of eating disorders is complex and involves multiple biological, social, and emotional factors.
Several risk factors may make an adolescent more likely to develop an eating disorder.
Mental Health Issues
Anxiety, depression, having experienced a traumatic event, or having low self-esteem can all put a child at higher risk for developing an eating disorder. Perceived body image would also fall under this category.
Having a family history of eating disorders is a known risk factor. Studies in twins have shown that up to 60% of the risk for eating disorders is inherited. While the genetic basis is still unknown, it is a complex set of traits that may contribute.
For example, a person may inherit the tendency to be a perfectionist and this temperament can contribute to an eating disorder.
Events and things that influence a person can contribute to developing an eating disorder. For example, exposure to media that promotes dieting or being teased about one’s weight can change the way a person thinks.
There is emerging research examining the role that idealization and social comparison play in developing poor body image and eating disorders.
How to Recognize Eating Disorders
As a parent, the signs of an eating disorder may not always be obvious. Some common signs to look for:
- Dramatic weight loss or weight gain
- Limiting food intake and denying being hungry
- Having dry skin and nails
- Excessively exercising
- Weighing oneself often
- Dressing in layers
Eating disorders can carry a social stigma for the adolescent so it is important to not accuse or attack.
Seeking treatment early leads to the highest success rates. Validate your child’s emotions and let them know you support them.
Treating Eating Disorders
Since the cause of eating disorders is complex, the treatment approach should be multifaceted as well.
Medical professionals recommend using a combination of psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and medications, when necessary, to treat eating disorders. Alternative therapies also promote overall wellness for those struggling.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most common methods of psychotherapy. It seeks to address negative patterns of thinking that lead to negative emotions and behaviors.
During CBT, positive behaviors are promoted by learning to recognize negative thinking that leads to issues. CBT is commonly used to treat eating disorders.
CBT can be conducted one-on-one between a patient and therapist. This allows a safe environment for a person to share their thoughts and feelings.
Group therapy is another method used. In group therapy, adolescents can connect with peers facing similar challenges as themselves. It also offers an opportunity to work on social skills.
Family therapy sessions are helpful to repair any issues that may have emerged as a result of the eating disorder. Conversely, there may be family issues that are contributing to the root cause of the eating disorder that needs to be addressed.
Providing information about healthy eating habits is an important part of treating eating disorders. Nutritional counseling by a registered dietician is essential to supporting a healthy lifestyle beyond any treatment program.
Understanding one’s own body and what is required nutritionally can help a person overcome eating disorders. This includes understanding the digestive system and the physical consequences of not eating properly.
Adolescents should learn what a healthy weight for themselves is as well as define what a healthy meal should look like.
Whether the adolescent is overweight or underweight, these skills will be valuable long into adulthood.
Sometimes, there may be underlying mental health disorders that are contributing to the cause of the eating disorder. In some cases, medication may be appropriate to help treat the mental health condition.
Medications can be prescribed for depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Anytime a medication is used for the first time, a patient is carefully monitored for side effects and to see how they respond. Dosing and drugs are modified as needed.
Beyond psychotherapy and medications, other types of therapy have been used to treat eating disorders in children and adolescents.
Art therapy can reveal insights into how a person views themselves by the artwork they create. The process of creating art is also therapeutic, producing a calming effect and providing a way to express emotions.
Yoga therapy creates an opportunity to connect more deeply to one’s own body. Being aware of one’s body has been shown to promote a more positive body image. Participating in yoga has also been shown to promote a more positive mood.
Music therapy, listening to or creating music, has been shown to reduce anxiety in people with eating disorders. Music can serve as a distraction from negative thoughts. Research has shown that participating in music therapy can lead to greater self-confidence and empowerment.
All of these modalities of therapy are offered during treatment programs at Avery’s House.
Our Treatment Programs
At Avery’s House, we have experience treating children and young adults struggling with eating disorders. Our professional, certified staff are able to assess, diagnose and stabilize a wide variety of mental health disorders in kids and teens.
Our program is family-centered. This means we invite families to be active participants in their child’s treatment.
We hold a weekly visitation where we invite families into our facility. There is also a weekly virtual support group for families to attend so that they can connect with other parents going through similar challenges.
Avery’s House customizes treatment plans to meet our patients where they are. You will receive regular updates on your child’s progress and modifications to the treatment program as they are needed.
We are proud to offer a variety of treatment methods to provide a comprehensive program that supports the physical, emotional, and mental health of all of our patients. We equip you and your child with the tools and strategies to be successful after you leave our facility.
We understand the importance of continuing education while receiving treatment. Clients in our residential program must be enrolled in an accredited school or online program during the fall and spring semesters.
Avery’s House works closely with local school districts to maintain learning while at our facility.
If for some reason the school is unable to meet our requirements, your child will be enrolled in Brightmount Academy, an online learning platform.
During the summer months, we provide an educational program to maintain academics. Participation in this program supports developing social skills, confidence in presentations, and managing responsibilities.
Cost should never prevent someone from receiving the care that they need. Our admissions specialists work with you to verify your insurance coverage and discuss treatment options.
We accept most major insurance plans. Insurance carriers commonly cover all or some of the cost of mental health related treatments. Using your insurance benefits will reduce your out-of-pocket expenses.
There are also other financial assistance resources available.
Our team takes the time to make sure every client has a clear understanding of their financial obligations so there are no surprises along the way.
Avery’s House Offers Eating Disorder Therapy for Teens
Taking the first step and reaching out for help is the hardest part of getting better. You and your child may have many questions about what treatment is like and what to expect.
Our caring and knowledgeable staff are available 24/7 to provide no-cost, confidential support to families in need of assistance.
We can answer your questions and help guide you to making an informed decision. If you are just starting to seek help or if you have been down this road before, Avery’s House specializes in helping adolescents get back to feeling their best.
Contact us today to get your child on the path to recovery!