When Is It Time to Seek Out Help for Your Child’s Eating Disorder?


Seeking treatment for any mental health disorder can be an intimidating process for parents. For most people, there is guilt and shame surrounding any form of mental health disease, and admitting that there is a problem is necessary in every recovery journey, whether that is from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or any other eating disorder.

For adolescents with eating disorders, another hurdle might present itself — speaking out to a loved one or another trusted adult. But studies indicate that early intervention is often essential to long-term eating disorder recovery, especially for adolescents. While discussing the child’s dieting habits, purging behaviors or the potential development of an eating disorder can be difficult subjects for parents to approach with their child, it’s the essential first step to helping them gain recovery. After this conversation, families can begin to explore eating disorder counseling options and the best course for recovery.

When Should Parents Consider Teenage Eating Disorder Treatment?

Before families can begin the search for the best adolescent center for eating disorders near them, it’s a good idea to become more familiar with the early warning signs and symptoms of common eating disorders. This research can help parents to understand their children better, what they are experiencing mentally and physically — and prepare everyone in the family for the road ahead.

Some early warning signs of common eating disorders include:

  • Dramatic weight fluctuations and weight loss
  • A preoccupation with food, dieting, calories, fat grams, body shape, and body weight
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, like carbohydrates, dairy, etc.
  • The development of food rituals that may include eating foods in a specific order, excessive chewing, not allowing foods to touch, etc.
  • Maintaining a very rigid exercise routine despite illness, bad weather and outstanding social engagements
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Withdrawal from regular social obligations, depression, anxiety and panic attacks
  • Hiding or hoarding food
  • Eating in secret and/or consuming large amounts of food in secret
  • Dizziness, fainting and sleep problems
  • Tooth enamel erosion, cavities, tooth sensitivity, because of self-induced vomiting

How to Get Started on Eating Disorder Recovery

Chances are, if you are concerned about your child’s eating habits at all, it’s time to seek professional help. At this point, everyone in the family can likely understand that these disordered eating behaviors are a problem and understands that the problem won’t simply go away on its own. If thoughts surrounding food, dieting, body weight, exercise and body shape are ruling someone’s life, this is a potent indicator that an eating disorder is either present or is beginning to develop.

The journey towards recovery begins when adolescent clients can admit there is a problem. While this can be hard to do — especially in a society that puts a premium of individuality and self-reliance, accept help from others can allow distorted thinking and patterns surrounding food can be treated. The good news is that, with the help of teenage eating disorders treatment, these behaviors can be replaced with new and positive coping skills.

How Can Parents Talk to Teens About Eating Disorders?

The National Eating Disorders Association recommends that parents and other family members should speak with their loved one with compassion and care, being firm in their convictions, but avoiding any judgmental or accusatory statements. They should be ready to ask questions and also give some answers themselves. The more informed parents are surrounding eating disorders and different treatment options, the better. Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • When did you start having different thoughts about food, exercise, and weight? What kind of thoughts did you have?
  • When did you notice changes in your behaviors? Which behaviors seemed out of the ordinary? What were you trying to accomplish with these new behaviors?
  • Have you noticed any physical health changes like lack of sleep, digestive problems or dizziness? Any emotional changes like anxiety or depression?
  • How do you feel today?
  • How can I best support you?

Seek Help from a Residential Eating Disorder Treatment Center

After your conversation, feelings might be raw, but you will all be ready to take the next steps with confidence. A good place to start is by researching and calling an eating disorder treatment center, who are experienced and prepared to treat a variety of eating disorders and other mental health conditions. The admissions team can usually provide an initial assessment over the phone or via chat, and they can help you make travel and financial arrangements.

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