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Eating Disorders in Teens

Many people have misconceptions about what someone with an eating disorder looks like based on stereotypical images that have been promoted on TV and in movies and magazines. The truth is that eating disorders hide in plain sight and teens across the country are suffering in silence. Rosewood provides comprehensive eating disorder treatment for teens and adolescents age 12 to 17 who are struggling with an eating disorder and co-occurring disorders. While each person is different, and there is wide variation from one type of eating disorder to another, there are several signs that suggest a teen might be struggling with an eating disorder:

  • Continually on a diet, even if already slim
  • Eats secretly or alone, especially at night
  • Gains or loses weight quickly and unexpectedly
  • Makes excuses to avoid eating
  • Obsessed with exercise
  • Overly concerned with weight or body shape
  • Overuses laxatives or diet pills
  • Preoccupied with food or caloric intake
  • Secretly stores food
  • Stays away from social situations involving eating
  • Visits a bathroom immediately following meals

Caught early, eating disorder treatment for teens can occur without leading to serious long-term consequences. Left untreated, it can leave a young person with permanent medical damage or even lead to death. If you suspect that you or someone you love may have an eating disorder, please call one of our caring specialists at 844-371-3624 for a confidential consultation.

Allison & Her Mom Share Inspiring Recovery Story

My life revolved around my eating disorder. I thought that nobody understood what I was going through and that nobody could help me... Rosewood was really life changing.

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How Rosewood Helps Teens

Our compassionate team of experts specializes in teen eating disorder treatment and understand how the all-consuming nature of eating disorders can affect someone who’s struggling for self-acceptance or who are trying to deal with trauma, addiction or related issues. We understand how much a teen can gain from successful treatment—and how much they could lose when an eating disorder and co-occurring disorders are left untreated. Our passionate team of experts specializes in teen eating disorder treatment. So we meet each patient exactly where they are, on their own terms. Because no matter how vulnerable they might feel, every patient deserves a chance to form lasting, trusting, rewarding relationships. Eating disorders can cause family relationships to suffer. At Rosewood, families are integral to successful treatment. Our family program helps parents learn how to support their teen in recovery, and offers a safe place for honest, open communication and healing. Rosewood’s state-of-the-art 13-acre campus includes a separate building complex specifically designed to meet the needs of adolescent patients age 12 to 17 years. The gated property features welcoming, comfortable home-like accommodations, a school facility, and a recreational area that includes a sparkling swimming pool, ping pong, and many other recreational opportunities. We also treat teens for eating disorders at Rosewood Tempe and Rosewood Santa Monica. To ensure the highest level of holistic care, each resident is assigned their own multidisciplinary treatment team whose task is to provide the tools necessary for complete recovery. To achieve this goal, the treatment team meets daily to create, review and adjust each resident’s personalized treatment plan. It might include elements like:

For patients arriving with severe illness, malnourishment and dehydration, Rosewood is able to provide acute care services. Once the patient is medically stabilized, we will assess and determine the most appropriate level of care.

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Teen Shares How Rosewood Changed Her Life

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Rosewood Teen Eating Disorder Treatment Program

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Free Online Eating Disorder Assessments

If you think a teen you know might be struggling with an eating disorder, it helps to have some clarity. Rosewood offers free online assessments that can help you figure out if an eating disorder is involved and what next steps, if any, to take. The assessments can be taken by a parent, relative or other responsible adult on behalf of an adolescent, or even by young people themselves. Either way, the process is completely confidential. Just choose the assessment type below and answer the questions honestly and completely. Minors: If you are under 18 years of age you must complete this form with the help of a parent, and your parent must be involved in all aspects of the communication about your online assessment.

One of our compassionate intake specialists will review your responses and call back promptly with results in complete confidence.

Alishia and Her Mom Share Their Story

I couldn't love myself. I didn't feel loved by others. My eating disorder really just took over...me. Rosewood is a really safe place to share. They've given me a place where I know I can go back if I ever need help again. Rosewood completely changed my life.

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About Eating Disorders in Teens

The reasons people develop an eating disorder don’t really involve food itself. An eating disorder is essentially a behavioral response to an internal struggle. For someone with an eating disorder, the internal struggle might be a combination of stress, anxiety, depression, loss of control, fear, trauma and other issues. The behavioral response is eating too little or too much in relation to dietary needs. While this pattern applies to people of all ages, it has special relevance for those in their teen years. Because those are the years when people experience emotional, psychological and physical stress more intensely than usual. Adolescence is also the period when people are not yet equipped to deal with those stresses. Teens often find themselves confronting adult emotions without the adult resources and skills to manage them. So they turn to strategies that can be self-destructive, like eating disorders. At Rosewood, we understand how these dynamics affect young people who are still developing into the adults they want to be. That’s why our teen eating disorder treatment and recovery programs are consistently patient-centered—not disease-centered or symptom-centered. We treat people, not illnesses, and we know every patient starts out with their own unique history, background, mindset, events and dreams. Our trained, empathetic professionals help each patient sort through interconnected emotions that led them to develop an eating disorder. We connect with patients through unconditional acceptance, kindness and authenticity. With that as a foundation, we guide every teen patient toward their own insights and their own recovery. So they can re-establish their own identity, rediscover their own strength, and get their own life back.

I have so much to offer and so much purpose now. I feel like I’ve been reborn. Rosewood’s completely changed my life.

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Events that Can Trigger Eating Disorders in Teens

Teens face constant pressure from multiple angles, without the emotional resources or physical maturity to process it. Some teens feel pressure to conform, to be more beautiful, to be more popular, to earn approval from friends and authority figures and that’s not even counting pressure to succeed in school and sports. Some teen eating disorder patients may also be struggling with a traumatic event in childhood or an ongoing addiction. Some specific sources of teen pressure include:

  • Traumatic events or patterns: These might include the death of a family member, sexual or emotional abuse, parents divorcing, relocation, life-threatening illness or accident. Trauma leaves victims feeling helpless, so they often grasp at any avenue available for exerting control. An eating disorder is a common way of controlling an aspect of life when a person feels helpless.
  • Popular media: Our culture glamorizes thinness, fitness and beauty. These characteristics, which become equated with popularity, are reinforced in advertising, popular culture, films, TV, music videos and other media.
  • Bullying: This trend has become damaging in its intensity in recent years—particularly with the popularity of social media that foster meanness without accountability. Bullying promotes low-self-esteem, poor body image, anxiety, depression and other conditions that contribute directly to eating disorders.
  • Competitiveness: Pressure to compete can promote a need for academic, physical or athletic perfection. To a teen, who might already equate perfection with thinness and attractiveness, a competitive environment acts as a motivator to lose more weight, faster.

If you think you or a young person you know might be struggling with an eating disorder, know this: there is hope.

That first time that you have to make that phone call is the hardest thing you’ll have to do. You have support, someone is always there, day or night, to talk to you, to hold your hand if you need it.

Relapse Prevention and Aftercare Planning for Teens

We know from experience that ED patients, especially teens, are often vulnerable to relapse. So a strong relapse prevention plan is crucial for long term recovery. Teen patients often face temptations to seek “comfort” in the same behaviors they worked hard to erase. The choices they make in those moments affect them and every member of their family. That’s a major reason why Rosewood places emphasis on starting relapse prevention plans as soon as the individual is admitted. As part of every teen’s eating disorder treatment plan, weekly relapse prevention sessions are included. So the patient builds a strong foundation for recognizing their own personal triggers and can refocus. In these sessions, patients learn strategies for coping with real-world situations that might provoke a relapse, as well as life management skills that build confidence in the person’s ability to manage the inevitable stresses of daily life. As part of our collaborative approach to teen eating disorder treatment, our clinicians stay in close touch with every patient’s personal medical providers. This process often starts when the patient is first referred to us, and it lasts throughout the course of treatment. By the time a patient is discharged, their providers are fully up-to-date on their progress and areas that might require monitoring.

Alumni Support for Teens

Just as peer pressure can be a contributing factor in the development of an eating disorder, peer support can play a major role in relapse prevention. Our robust alumni program takes advantage of the relationships forged during treatment at Rosewood. After learning the value of teamwork and accountability during eating disorder treatment for teens, patients are encouraged to maintain close ties with other alumni after they are discharged. Those bonds often form the basis of trust-based friendships that can last a lifetime. Our alumni coordinator contacts every patient multiple times after discharge, just to check on their progress, offer encouragement and let them know help is always available if needed. To further strengthen bonds of fellowship with others, we hold national reunions for alumni every year, along with frequent smaller regional events. We also invite teen alumni to return to Rosewood as guest speakers, helping a new group of patients on their own recovery journeys. Patients are also encouraged to join our Operation RecoverED program, which raises awareness about eating disorders by making presentations at schools, meetings of civic groups and other venues.

I would not be alive without my team and friends at Rosewood.

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