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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lists different types of eating disorders that are respectively categorized under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders. Eating disorders are defined as “serious medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to a person’s eating behavior,” and are characterized by abnormal, irregular eating habits, and an extreme concern with one’s body weight or shape. The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. Adolescent eating disorder statistics show 2.7% of teens in the U.S. between 13 and 18 years old have a diagnosable eating disorder. The best way to help a child with an eating disorder is to be able to recognize the warning signs and secure professional, customized treatment as quickly as possible. 

Warning Signs

Anorexia nervosa is when a young person limits his or her food intake to the point of starvation, making his or her body unable to function properly or maintain a healthy weight. Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents. Warning signs an adolescent is struggling with anorexia may include:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
  • Constantly weighing themselves
  • Obsessively reading nutritional information 
  • Weight gain fears
  • Eating only low-calorie foods 
  • Distorted body image 
  • Distracted and unable to concentrate
  • Skipping meals
  • Regularly making excuses avoid eating
  • Denying there is a problem despite excessive weight loss

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of overeating (bingeing) and compensatory behaviors (purging) in attempts to undo the effects of the binge eating episodes. Purging could include self-induced vomiting, excessively over exercising, and/ or abusing diuretics. Warning signs of bulimia include

  • Fear of eating in public or with others
  • Shows unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
  • Discolored, stained teeth
  • Has calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
  • Diets frequently
  • Appears uncomfortable eating around others
  • Shows extreme concern with body weight and shape
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Non-specific gastrointestinal complaints
  • Sleeping problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired immune system

Binge-eating disorder (BED) is characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsively eating abnormally large quantities of food (often quickly) to the point of physical discomfort, without engaging in compensatory behaviors. Often binge episodes are followed by emotions of embarrassment, shame, guilt, and/ or distress. Warning signs of binge-eating disorder may include:

  • Noticeable weight fluctuations
  • Depression
  • Eating in secret
  • Anxiety
  • Skipping meals
  • Finding hidden food in unusual places
  • Eating excessive amounts of food in a short period of time
  • Continuing to eat, even when painfully full 
  • Inability to feel satiated
  • In extreme cases, suicidal ideation

The New York Times explains that early identification and intervention play a key role in the successful treatment of eating disorders. If left untreated, eating disorders can result in severe short- and long-term consequences.


There are many treatment options for a teen struggling with an eating disorder. Each child is different and will require a tailored treatment plan to ensure all nuanced needs are met. The treatment plan for a young person diagnosed with an eating disorder will be directly informed by several contributing factors, such as: one’s exact diagnosis, how long he or she has been actively engaging in unhealthy eating habits, his or her personal health history, and the presence of any co-morbid disorders. Depending on the needs of the adolescent, an eating disorder treatment plan could include any combination of the following:

  • Medications:
    • Anorexia nervosa: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any medication specifically for the treatment of anorexia nervosa. 
    • Bulimia nervosa: the only medication that is approved by the FDA for the treatment of bulimia nervosa is the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) known as Prozac (generically: fluoxetine). 
    • Binge-eating disorder: The first medication the FDA approved as treatment from binge-eating disorder is called Vyvanse (generically: lisdexamfetamine). Antidepressants such as SSRIs (e.g., Prozac) may be prescribed to reduce the frequency of binge eating episodes. Anticonvulsant medications, such as Topiramate, may be prescribed to reduce the frequency of bingeing episodes. 
  • Medical care and/ or medical monitoring: to minimize and mitigate possible medical complications that can arise from eating disorders.
  • Nutritional counseling: to facilitate weight restoration and body-weight management.

Treatment for young people with an eating disorder aims to help them find a healthy and sustainable relationship with food. While eating disorders are life-long conditions, with proper treatment, an adolescent can learn to effectively manage its symptoms. 

Treatment In Calabasas

Calabasas is a city in California. It is a well-known suburb of Los Angeles, located west of the San Fernando Valley and north of the Santa Monica Mountains. Over the past decade, the city of Calabasas has grown in its reputation for luxury as well as for privacy which makes it a hidden gem for residential living for society’s elite, and one of the most desirable destinations in Los Angeles County. It is also home to a plethora of highly qualified mental health clinicians providing an array of therapeutic services and treatment options. 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

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