For Parents: Eating Disorders Are A Serious Mental Health Issue

Recognition of eating disorders in children as real and treatable diseases is critically important as one in ten cases of anorexia nervosa leads to death by medical complications or suicide.Recognition of eating disorders as real and treatable diseases is critically important. The consequences of eating disorders can be severe. For example, one in ten cases of anorexia nervosa leads to death from starvation, cardiac arrest, kidney failure, other medical complications, or suicide.

Without treatment, up to twenty percent (20%) of people with serious eating disorders die. However, early identification and treatment leads to more favorable outcomes. With treatment, the mortality rate falls to two to three percent (2-3%).

Getting Help

Parents who notice symptoms of an eating disorder in their teenagers should ask their family physician or pediatrician for a referral to a child and adolescent mental health professional.

With comprehensive treatment, most teenagers can be relieved of the symptoms or helped to control eating disorders. Mental health professionals that specialize in working with children and adolescents are trained to evaluate, diagnose, and treat these psychiatric disorders. Eating disorders frequently co-occur with depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders, and it is important to recognize and get appropriate treatment for these problems as well.

Treatment for eating disorders usually requires a team approach; including individual therapy, family therapy, working with a primary care physician, and working with a nutritionist.

Treatment usually begins in an outpatient setting, but an eating disorder treatment  center may be necessary if symptoms are severe.

  • Hospitalization may be necessary if there is:
  • significant weight loss
  • low blood pressure
  • cardiac dysfunctions
  • fluid retention
  • dehydration
  • electrolyte disturbances
  • inability to function at home, school, and the community
  • severe depression
  • thoughts of suicide

If the hospital is not exclusive to the treatment of eating disorders, the individual should then be transferred to an eating disorders residential treatment center specializing in eating disorders that addresses underlying psychological issues and provides a safe, secure, loving, and supportive environment.

Information from the National Eating Disorders Association, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc.

next: How You Can Help Your Child Overpower an Eating Disorder
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APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2008, December 31). For Parents: Eating Disorders Are A Serious Mental Health Issue, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 16 from

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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