Eating disorders are complex diseases that pose serious consequences to adolescents and young adults.

They include anorexia, bulimia, night eating syndrome, pica, purging among others.

These disorders are often hidden from the family as much as they have severe emotional and physical effects if left untreated.

According to the Family Institute at Northwestern University, nearly three per cent of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 have eating disorders. 

Experts say that, eating disorders should not be considered normal adolescents behaviour as  they can be fatal.

“People with eating disorders can die of medical complications, but they may be even more likely to die of suicide. They become tired of having their lives controlled by eating and food issues.”  says Dr. Laurie Hornberger, a specialist in adolescent medicine at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. 

There are many components of professional treatment for eating disorders, however we take a look at the main one’s:

Mental health management

People with eating disorders require therapy, counselling and psychological intervention. This may involve psychotherapy. Eating disorders can be caused by psychological stresses. Therapists thus aim too reduce the feelings of low self-esteem, inadequacy, guilt and negative body image. This helps to empower the patient and thus they are able to overcome their difficulties.

This therapy can also be done in a group or family mode. Group therapy gives the patient a supportive network of people with similar issues. The patient will learn about alternative coping strategies, ways to change behaviours and long-term goals from the group members.

Family therapy is not limited to eating disorders but to issues in the family that may have led to their member developing eating disorders. These may be conflict, communication problems and tension. Family members learn how to support the patient to attain full recovery. The family is also encouraged to develop healthy ways to deal with the eating disorder.

Physical Health management

Eating disorders have major impacts on physical health as much as it is a mental illness. A medical practitioner with experience in the area of eating disorders helps in monitoring physical health.

A paediatrician is normally involved in the medical care when adolescents are involved. They provide medical solutions to problems that require care and treatment such as kidney problems, dental problems,anaemia, heartburn.

The medical team involved in the treatment and care of a person with eating disorder varies depending on the severity of the illness.

A dietitian or nutritionist, physiotherapist and dentist may work alongside a psychologist to help treat eating disorders.