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Like most other behavioral conditions, choosing residential programs for teens who have an eating disorder provides them with several significant benefits. Understanding these advantages and the role they have in the recovery of teens with eating disorders makes it clear many of these young people need the personalized programs proper teen residential treatment offers.

Understanding the Complex Spectrum of Eating Disorders

Unlike what many people may first believe when a loved one or close friend displays symptoms that indicate she has an eating disorder, this set of medical conditions is not actually related solely to food. Instead, it is characterized by a set of both physical and mental health symptoms that are intertwined.

Know the Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

There are several common disorders including bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and anorexia nervosa. In some instances, a teen girl’s eating disorder does not fall neatly into any of those categories. The latest edition of the mental health industry’s diagnostic tool, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), includes a category known as Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder that takes this into account.

While the actual symptoms of each disorder can differ, they also share some commonalities as well. For example, someone who has an eating disorder is going to display a focus on both her body shape and her weight. Another hallmark of an eating disorder is that people may link their self-worth to their body shape and weight. Any real or perceived imperfections are met with excessive criticism by the individual. Conversely, though, when approached with concern by her friends, family, coworkers and others who care about her, many of these young women become defensive or downplay the seriousness of the situation. It is not uncommon for potential clients to resist getting the teen residential treatment they need – at least initially.

Anorexia Nervosa

If someone is thought to have anorexia nervosa, she may display some common characteristics. For example, she is likely to be a high achiever and a perfectionist, all while also suffering from a sense of low self-worth. This is grounded in an irrational thought process in which she thinks she is fat no matter how thin she looks to those around her. People who feel like this can often gain a sense of control over their own lives when they ignore their body’s natural demands for food and ignore the signs of hunger. This can lead to significant damage to her body with some young women and teen girls succumbing to death.

Bulimia Nervosa

People with bulimia nervosa usually have a different set of symptoms. First, the individual binge eats large amounts of foods that contain significant amounts of empty calories. This is followed by a period in which the client feels extreme guilt and disgust by her actions. In order to maintain her thinness, she then purges her body of the high-calorie foods that she has just ingested. There are a number of ways in which this can be accomplished including the use of laxatives, self-induced vomiting or excessive amounts of exercise.

If self-induced vomiting is the method used to purge her body, family, friends, coworkers and other people close to her may notice she spends a long time in the bathroom. She may also run the water while she is in the bathroom to cover up sounds of purging.

In addition to binge eating, people with bulimia nervosa may follow strict diets that result in extreme weight fluctuations. She might try to hide these dramatic decreases and increases in her weight by wearing baggy clothing or by donning coats and jackets even when the weather does not seem to warrant them.

Binge Eating Disorder

A third common eating disorder that benefits from treatment in a residential program for teens is binge eating disorder. While the binge eating episodes are similar to what those with bulimia nervosa exhibit, there is no purging involved. Most of these foods contain significant amounts of empty calories so she is hungry again in just a short time after eating. These behaviors are in a vicious cycle with feelings of lower self-esteem as well as other related mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Residential Treatment Services for Teens and Young Adult Women

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), comprehensive services like the ones found in residential treatment centers for teens can help most people recover from eating disorders. A key factor in recovery is noticing the signs that point to the possibility of an individual having an eating disorder. Family members, coaches, teachers, friends, coworkers and other individuals who interact with these individuals on a regular basis should be alert to the symptoms that often indicate the presence of an eating disorder.

Early Intervention Makes a Difference

The other component that increases the chances of people recovering from an eating disorder is early intervention. If the people who are close to these individuals notice something amiss and act on it by seeking out teen residential treatment, the chances are much greater that she will fully recover and be returned to her healthy self.

Five Benefits of Choosing a Residential Treatment Center for Teens

  1. Comprehensive

Individuals in residential treatment have access to a comprehensive array of services twenty-four hours per day. From medical professionals to therapists, if a patient has a crisis in the middle of the night, for example, there is no need to travel for assistance. Everything she needs to assess and act on the situation is available right there.

  1. Highly Structured

Residential treatment centers for teens are a highly-structured environment in which certain times are allocated for particular activities. For example, all of the participants must wake up at a certain time and lights out occur at a particular time each evening. In many residential programs for teens, there is a check in period each morning as well as in the evening. This sense of structure not only provides the participants with the services they need, but it also ensures she has regular access to key resources.

  1. 3. Home-Like Environment

Many residential treatment centers for teens feature comfortable, home-like environments that are focused on keeping clients as comfortable as possible. This fosters a sense of community and support while making it evident the staff has the health and recovery of the patients as their primary goal.

  1. Medically Monitored

Because so many young women and teen girls also have mental health conditions in addition to their eating disorder, the physicians on staff at the teen residential treatment center will often prescribe medications to address these disorders. In other cases, there might be a medical need for certain medications that are part of the entire recovery process. Regardless of the reasoning behind the inclusion of medications, its use is monitored by the medical staff at the residential teen treatment center.

  1. Specialized Care

While every client with an eating disorder can benefit from the services offered by residential treatment centers for teens, those who are also experiencing a substance use disorder or those who are practicing self-harm will benefit greatly from such care. It is important young women and teen girls who do experience these additional behaviors understand they are not alone. Many treatment centers provide treatment specifically for these kinds of mental health issues.

  1. Nutritional Support

“Rewiring” the brains of clients who have an eating disorder and providing them with different coping mechanisms are crucial steps in their recovery. Not surprisingly, much of this is focused on food and its role in the individual’s life. This is where professional nutritional support comes in. One of the first tasks that this professional undertakes is to ensure each young woman has access to nutritional, tasty and satisfying food during her stay at the residential program.

  1. Safe Space to Practice

No matter how well thought out the program objectives are or how motivated the teen girl or young woman is to get better, being able to role-play different scenarios that she will need to navigate once she moves back to her community can provide her with the coping skills she needs to continue her recovery. For example, being able to order lunch from her school cafeteria may be something a teenager works on while she is in a residential program. A young adult woman, on the other hand, might practice going out to eat with friends or purchasing groceries from a nearby store as preparation for addressing these and similar issues once they arise.

  1. Family Support

While family support is common, when other types of treatment for eating disorders are chosen, it can be more intense and involved when the client obtains residential treatment. In addition, her clinical treatment team can work closely with her family to address any behaviors that might be detrimental to her full recovery and offer suggestions that can be more helpful and supportive. Working extensively and closely with her family provides client with a strong and supportive network of people who care about her and who can provide her with the resources she needs to recover completely.

Clementine, an affiliate of Monte Nido & Affiliates, is devoted to the unique needs of people who have an eating disorder. With locations across the United States, Clementine provides gender-specific and evidence-based residential treatment and care for individuals with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating and other eating disorders. The staff at Clementine have a unique combination of professional expertise and personal experience from which to draw on in order to help individuals recover and find their health once again.

It is understandable that family members, friends and other important people in her life have questions and concerns about her condition. The staff at Clementine work closely with those the loved ones of the clients under our care. Contact us today if you have any questions or to schedule an intake appointment.





Melissa Spann, PhD, LMHC, CEDS-S

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido & Affiliates, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.