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Teen Eating Disorders: Most Adolescents Go Without Treatment

Teen Eating Disorders | ParadigmMalibu.com

A study funded by the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) found that about 3% of American adolescents are affected by an eating disorder but most do not receive treatment for their specific eating condition.

 

To get these statistics, experts from NIHM analyzed data from the National Co-morbidity Study Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), which is a national face-to-face survey of over 10,000 teens ages 13 to 18. Previously, other studies found that about 20% of youth are affected by a severe mental disorder, and that a substantial percent of adolescents are not receiving treatment. However, this study specifically, the authors tracked the prevalence of eating disorders and the ratio of those adolescents who received treatment.

 

This study was also able to determine the number of youth possessing various types of eating disorders. According to the survey results, 0.3 percent were affected by Anorexia, 0.9 percent by bulimia, and 1.6 percent by binge eating disorder. Still, others had a diagnosis of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, which is the way the American Psychological Association diagnosis disorders that don’t neatly fit into other clearly defined disorders such as Anorexia or Bulimia. The diagnosis of ED-NOS was the most common among the teens while still others had either sub-threshold Anorexia and sub-threshold Binge Eating Disorder.

 

The survey also managed to uncover demographic information. Bulimia was found to have the highest prevalence among Hispanics and Anorexia Nervosa was more commonly found among Caucasians. Most teens who had an eating disorder also met criteria for another mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. Furthermore, eating disorders among teens were commonly associated with suicidal thinking.

 

Teen Eating Disorder treatment varies depending upon the type of the disorder. In general, however, an Eating Disorder is a complex psychological and physical illness.  It is a form of an addiction, and for that reason, requires attention on not only the physical aspect of the disorder, but also the psychological. A doctor is required to monitor the severe medical consequences that come with the illness; a therapist is required to treat the psychological aspect of the disorder, and a nutritionist is needed to coach a teen on how to have a healthier relationship with food and eating.

 

Someone with a teen eating disorder will often experience anxiety, fear, or powerlessness around food. In treatment, he or she will need to form a better relationship with eating and food intake. To do this, the therapeutic experience might include sitting down for a meal. Having a teen hold food in her hands while talking to a nutritionist or therapist. The nutritionist will also be assessing the body to be sure that she is getting all the nutrients she needs. Often, as stated above, the body is depleted of what it needs to function. Part of treatment is restoring the body and finding its optimal level of equilibrium and health.

 

With a disease such as Anorexia Nervosa, where a teen is attempting to control her food intake, there is often too little food in the body.  Over time, the muscles and the tissues start to break down. An adolescent moves through cycles of self-starvation, denying the body essential nutrients it needs to function normally. The body is forced to slow down all of its processes in order to conserve energy, resulting in serious medical consequences.

 

With Bulimia Nervosa, losing the ability to control food intake, the medical consequences are slightly different because of the binging and purging that happens with this disorder. The dysfunctional cycle between binging on food and then purging it affects the digestive system. Electrolytes are lost and there are severe chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions.

 

Psychotherapy is a common form of treatment for all types of eating disorders. The NIMH study indicates that eating disorders represent a major public health concern, and that additional forms of access to treatment are necessary for teens who are showing signs of eating disorders symptoms.

 

 

By Robert Hunt
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Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.

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