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With disordered eating attitudes clouding their vision, teenagers can have a truly difficult time even seeing a clear path toward eating disorder recovery – or realizing they need one. Disordered behaviors often result from these thoughts and put teens at serious risk of mental and physical health complications. As a result, teenage eating disorders treatment programs tend to put a lot of focus on helping teens challenge disordered thought patterns and replace dysfunctional behaviors with healthier alternatives.

Through this process, eating disorder treatment experts help teens develop the coping skills they need to overcome the challenges in becoming and remaining recovered. With each activity, teens learn how to effectively apply their skills as they encounter triggers, while navigating real-life situations. Practicing coping skills starts at the treatment center before teens move on to experiencing outings with friends and family. Teens eventually develop the confidence they need to use their skills on a daily basis in remaining recovered at home.

Addressing disordered eating attitudes and behaviors takes time and requires a deeper understanding of the process and purpose. Teens and their parents can prepare for this process with an exploration into these areas and what to expect while going through teenage eating disorders treatment.

Signs of Disordered Behaviors and Thought Patterns

Although the warning signs can be difficult to notice, teens with eating disorders exhibit a number of behavioral, physical and psychological signs when engaging in disordered thoughts and behaviors. For example, sudden switches in how teens perceive food and approach eating can be triggered by negative thought patterns surrounding body image and weight. Other signs may include:

  • Food rituals or avoidance
  • Obsessive meal planning
  • Frequent dieting
  • Claims of food allergies
  • Intense focus on body size and shape
  • Fear of weight gain
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing
  • Inability to control food intake

These signs can vary considerably across all individuals and eating disorders, however, so parents need to note any shifts in their teens’ normal behaviors. Parents can use their own assessments to determine if their teens may have an eating disorder or are beginning to experience disorder thoughts and behaviors.

When parents determine there may be a problem, they can acquire additional insights and support from the professionals at teenage eating disorders treatment centers. These experts can assess teens’ attitudes about eating and the behaviors they may engage in as a result. Teens in need of care can enter inpatient or outpatient treatment programs to receive help replacing those thought patterns and behaviors with healthier alternatives. Through this process, teens can work toward becoming and remaining recovered from an eating disorder while receiving immense support along the way.

Exploring What Causes Disordered Attitudes and Behaviors

Teens with eating disorders may have a natural tendency to experience dysfunctional and obsessive thought patterns about eating, body image and physical fitness. There are many reasons these attitudes arise with multiple factors usually contributing to each person’s development of an eating disorder. Genetics, biological factors and temperament can all come together to shift teens’ thought patterns toward the negative or disordered.

Peer pressure and societal influence can also have a profound effect on teens’ attitudes about eating and body image. As their peers and society push certain ideals, teens may struggle to operate within those confines and usually without much success. The level of perfection promoted in modern society is not possible for anyone to attain and the mark continues to move ever skewed.

When disordered attitudes are not challenged, they often cause teens to resort to dysfunctional behaviors to cope. These behaviors may immediately satisfy the urge to control eating habits or exercise, but take a huge toll on health and wellbeing over time. These behaviors are often risky and a true detriment to teens’ health. To fully recover from eating disorders, teens must replace the disordered thoughts and behaviors with healthy coping skills and helpful habits.

The Problem with Disordered Eating Attitudes and Behaviors

When allowed to continue, disordered eating attitudes and behaviors tend to worsen in severity and frequency. Teens may start to experience serious mental and physical health problems as a result. Health problems related to dysfunctional eating disorder behaviors and thought patterns include:

  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Blood sugar spikes and crashes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Salivary gland swelling
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Nutritional deficiencies

With their attitudes so heavily influenced by negative thought patterns, teens may fail to see a way to recover from their eating disorders. Many do not even recognize that they have a problem. They may even shy away from mindfulness in an effort to shield themselves from their reality. This is often a necessity as their mental health tends to suffer while minimizing food intake and engaging in negative thought patterns.

Understanding the Need for an Assessment of Disordered Attitudes and Behaviors in Teens

To help teens understand the need for treatment, and motivate them to take the first steps, parents can call eating disorder treatment professionals to have an assessment performed. The intake specialists will use their knowledge and expertise to gather pertinent health and wellness information and help find the appropriate level of care for each teen’s needs.

As teens participate in this assessment, they are provided opportunities to recognize their disordered thought patterns and behaviors. Adolescents will also receive encouragement to move forward with the care process and learn about the path to becoming and remaining recovered. This process helps ease teens into accepting they can make a full recovery from eating disorders and creating a treatment plan to achieve these goals.

The intake assessment is typically the first step in the admissions process at eating disorder treatment centers. After recording all health and wellness information, admissions specialists focus on answering questions from the teens and their families. At the end of the intake assessment call, admissions specialists pass the information to the care team to have a treatment plan created. Once that plan is complete, teens and their parents will receive a call to discuss the next steps in acquiring care at eating disorder treatment centers.

Eating Disorder Treatment Approaches That Restore Positive Attitudes

Helping adolescents restore positive attitudes about eating, body image and exercise patterns is integral to the eating disorder treatment process. The care team will utilize a number of treatment techniques to help teens challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. With this approach, they help teens shift their mindset to prepare them to use their healthy coping skills and work toward becoming recovered.

Eating disorder care teams help teens learn what they need to know through intensive therapy sessions and exposure exercises. The therapy models they use greatly depends on each teen’s exact care needs and eating disorder symptoms. The models they use may include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, art therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy. While at eating disorder treatment centers, teens attend these therapy sessions on their own and alongside their peers. They can also have their family attend solo and group therapy sessions to help build the teens’ support network.

Adolescents may also learn how to recognize and address negative thought patterns with mindfulness training and meditation. When practiced on a regular basis, mindfulness can help teens understand how different scenarios make them feel and ways to mitigate the strong emotions that may arise. Meditation practices may also be utilized to provide teens a way to acknowledge how they feel and release their emotions without judgment.

How Eating Disorder Treatment Eliminates Disordered Behaviors

Resolving disordered behaviors often requires removing all privileges and responsibilities in the initial stages. The eating disorder treatment experts handle all meal planning, food management and daily scheduling to provide teens structure and guidance. Adolescents must follow their care plan exactly and complete all meals and activities to progress through treatment. Through this process, teens learn about how they need to restructure their approach and behaviors to become and remain recovered from eating disorders.

Adolescents gradually receive more of their privileges and responsibilities back as they follow their eating disorder treatment plan and move through the levels. Each level provides teens guidance and support in challenging disordered eating attitudes and behaviors through structured activities and exercises. Eating disorder therapists hand over more responsibilities regarding meal planning, portion control, physical movement and other challenging tasks as clients move through treatment.

To ensure teens remain on track in becoming fully recovered from their eating disorder, they may need to sign contracts that spell out their goals and activities for the week. These contracts make all expectations clear and ensure teens can push themselves along in their eating disorder recovery journey. With this approach, adolescents can slowly replace disordered behaviors with healthier alternatives modeled by their eating disorder care team.

Importance of Continued Support After Graduating from Treatment Centers

Even after banishing disordered thoughts and behaviors through eating disorder treatment, teens must remain aware of the possibility of those patterns returning. After graduating, teens must continue to assess and challenge their thought patterns and behaviors to remain recovered. If they have any difficulties along the way, eating disorder treatment center professionals are always there to provide support.

The treatment centers offer their graduates a number of helpful support resources to help in this realm. These resources range from educational webinars to impromptu therapy sessions, as needed. Teens can also log in to the treatment of center’s online system to access helpful online resources anytime they need extra support.

In addition to helping their graduates, treatment centers continue to offer parents support as well. Parents can attend the therapy sessions with their teens or on their own. They may also tap into the online resources, including webinars, whenever they need additional information and insights. If parents have any serious concerns about their teens’ wellbeing, they can reach out to the admissions specialists to find out how to help their children.

Helping Teens Acquire Eating Disorder Treatment

Teens often need help seeing how detrimental disordered thoughts and behaviors are to their wellbeing. The influences in their lives may skew their perceptions, making it nearly impossible to see their situation through a realistic lens. Instead, they may feel as if they are on the right track to living a happy, healthy life. Unfortunately, eating disorder symptoms often cause the opposite to occur, especially as the disordered thoughts and behaviors become more and more ingrained.

Therefore, parents should attempt to acquire help for their teens immediately upon noticing a problem. With a quick call, admissions specialists at the treatment center can help intervene and give teens insights that open their eyes to their situation. These professionals aim to help teens understand the path to eating disorder recovery and the benefits of beginning on that journey. Teens can have all their questions answered during these discussions and learn more about the treatment options available to them.

With time, teens often come to accept they can greatly improve their quality of life, health and wellbeing by accepting treatment. Upon entering these programs, teens can work on eliminating disordered thought patterns and behavior by building their coping skills toolbox. As this toolbox fills up, teens develop a healthy outlook and strong coping techniques needed to remain recovered.










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.