Adolescents

Adolescents Are Most Likely To Have An Eating Disorder

While eating disorders affect people of all ages, adolescents are at greatest risk.

The National Association of Eating Disorders (NEDA) noted that 86% of individuals with eating disorders report the onset by age 20, while 43% report the onset between ages 16 and 20.

The good news is that despite the higher rate of occurrence, adolescents have a high probability of recovery. Treating eating disorders early, instead of allowing disordered eating habits to become ingrained over a number of years into adulthood, is imperative. In most cases, adolescents also require the most important tool available to help them recover – the support of their families.

At Walden, we not only treat thousands of adolescents, we also work directly with parents and families to provide the necessary education, resources and skills to guide their child to long-term recovery. Our full system of care means you’ll always have the right level of treatment and support – aligned with the unique needs of your child and family – as close to home as possible.

Why Eating Disorders Are Common Among Adolescents

The transformation from childhood to adulthood can be challenging and stressful. Teens are subject to peer pressure and are often susceptible to certain cultural standards – largely based on body shape, size and appearance – intensified by both social media and mass media.

As a result, many adolescent girls and a growing number of adolescent boys become obsessed with their body image. A majority of teenage girls and nearly a third of teenage boys practice unhealthy weight control behavior, such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives. In addition, 35% to 57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting or use of diet pills or laxatives, according to studies reported by NEDA.

Those who struggle with weight issues are subject to body shaming, and criticism from their parents and others, which may also contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Other factors, such as abuse or trauma, may also play a role.

In some cases, this behavior leads to the development of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder or other forms of disordered eating. Anorexia and bulimia are especially prevalent among adolescents.

Treating Adolescents with Eating Disorders

Walden Behavioral Care, which offers one of the nation’s only full system of care for treating eating disorders, has worked with thousands of adolescents seeking to recover from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) and other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED). Walden treats all genders – males, females and the LGBT community.

Our promise to adolescents and their families is:

  • The right level of care, as close to home as possible
  • Treatment geared towards a lasting recovery
  • Programming tailored to each adolescent’s unique needs, including attention to any co-occurring conditions or health issues
  • A specialized treatment team to fully support the journey to recovery

Adolescents and Family-Based Eating Disorder Therapy

Family-based therapy (FBT) is the focal point of Walden’s adolescent treatment program. FBT is designed to give parents an active and positive role in helping their child reduce disordered eating behaviors, restore weight and resume proper adolescent development.

Walden is proud of our program and consider the results: 75% to 90% of our adolescent patients achieve full weight restoration within a year. That’s much higher than the average 60 % of adolescents treated using the popular family-based Maudsley method.

How do we do it? We give parents more information and closer guidance throughout the treatment process. In fact, we often consider parents and families to be the most important members of our clinical team. They actively participate in programming and, in outpatient levels of care, they take part in almost all treatment sessions.

By putting the family in control, we can typically enable the adolescent to stay at home. The family helps to restabilize the adolescent, then grow through an independent phase that we call a “rebirth.” The family, likewise, adjusts and everyone learns to work best together.

What else makes Walden’s approach different?

  • Walden uses family-based therapy not only for patients with anorexia, but for patients with bulimia, binge eating disorder, ARFID and all other eating disorders.
  • In lower levels of care, Walden conducts family-based therapy three days a week, not just one day a week, like traditional family-based programs.
  • Teens with eating disorders often have issues with substance abuse. They may have other disorders, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At Walden, we treat the whole person, addressing all issues needed to achieve a lasting recovery.

Adolescent treatment at Walden includes many facets. In addition to family-based therapy, you can expect your child to receive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), medical management, nutritional counseling, expressive therapy, psychotherapy and relapse prevention, based on the level of care. In addition to family counseling, your child will take part in individual and group counseling.

Assessing Your Child’s Needs

We’re here to ensure the health and safety of your child. We’ll first get to know your child through a brief assessment, conducted by professionals with clinical expertise in successfully treating eating disorders. From there, we will develop a treatment plan that’s specially designed to meet your child’s unique needs.

Many treatment centers and hospitals offer one level of care for treating eating disorders. Walden recognizes that everyone is different and that the road to recovery requires constant support. So we offer a full system of care – inpatient care, residential care, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and outpatient care. This ensures easy access to the treatment that’s best suited for your child at any given time.

If Your Adolescent Child Has an Eating Disorder, Care Is Just a Short Drive Away

Adolescents who have eating disorders already have plenty of stress in their lives – and so do their families. Treatment should help relieve stress, not add to it.

Having treatment close to home minimizes the pressure of keeping medical appointments and enables most adolescents to remain at home throughout the treatment process.

We want those we serve to continue to lead their lives by attending school, spending time with their families and friends, and working if they have a job. The same goes for our families.

Walden has clinics throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut and Georgia. Our 14 locations include two inpatient units, a residential facility and 11 ambulatory care clinics. Patients can receive care in Amherst, Braintree, Milford, Peabody, Waltham and Worcester, Mass.; Guilford, South Windsor and Vernon, Conn., and Alpharetta, Decatur and Dunwoody, Ga.

Adolescents Will Have Their Own Eating Disorder Treatment Team

At Walden, all adolescents have a dedicated, individualized multidisciplinary treatment program. Parents and other family members are part of the team, with parents playing a lead role. They’ll work collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team of eating disorder specialists with dozens of years of collective experience.

This may include psychiatrists, nurses, dietitians, therapists, social workers and mental health counselors for inpatient or residential care, or dietitians, therapists and mental health counselors for partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient (IOP) and outpatient levels.

Regain Your Life. Walden Can Help.

If you are concerned that your adolescent child may have an eating disorder, or if you have concerns for a loved one or a friend, do something about it. Please call 781-647-6727 to speak with a Walden eating disorders intake specialist or complete the form on this page.

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