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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. The average age of onset for eating disorders is 12 to 13 years old. Adolescent eating disorder statistics show 2.7% of teens in the U.S. between 13 and 18 years old have a diagnosable eating disorder. According to findings from the Minnesota Starvation Study by Keys et al. (1950), which is one of the most prominent studies used as a source of psychoeducation in eating disorder treatment, the act of restriction and extreme dieting directly impact a teenager’s physical, social, behavioral, and psychological well-being. Further, empirical evidence indicates that teenagers with eating disorders are at a substantially elevated risk for a broad range of physical and mental health problems, such as:

  • Anxiety: At least 65% of young people with an eating disorder also meet the clinical criteria for an anxiety disorder.
  • Depression: According to a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, 94% of adolescent patients being treated for an eating disorder were also diagnosed with depression or a related mood disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: Scientific evidence reveals that individuals who experience any form of trauma have a higher likelihood of developing an eating disorder compared to those who did not suffer a traumatic event. In one research study of teenagers hospitalized with an eating disorder, 25% of them presented with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Research has found that up to 69% of people with eating disorders have been diagnosed with OCD, and 10-17% of people with OCD have been diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Eating disorders not only adversely affect one’s mental health, but these conditions have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and experts assert that 13% of adolescents will develop an eating disorder by the age of 20. The recovery process from an eating disorder aims to help an adolescent find a healthy and sustainable relationship with food. While eating disorders are life-long conditions, with proper treatment, a teenager can learn to effectively manage its symptoms, which promotes improved mental health, and enriches one’s quality of life.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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