Teen Seeking More Treatment for Disordered Eating

By October 30, 2012

After battling anorexia last year, I’ve developed binge eating disorder and some bulimia through gaining back weight. At first it wasn’t too bad, but lately it’s been absolutely horrible and shameful: stealing food, eating HUGE amounts of food, etc. I’m only sixteen, and I’ve recently admitted my plight to my separated parents. I asked if I could go to a treatment center to help get out of the habit of binging and purging, because in reality the thoughts and communication behind the eating disorder have gotten WORLDS better. So much of what I’m doing right now is a habit, and I’d love to go to a treatment center to get help on stopping the seemingly constant binge. One parent VERY strongly wants me to go (dad), while the other parent is VERY much against it (mom). Mom thinks that I should continue with my current treatment, which is helping, but I really want more help right now. What do you think is wise?

Dear Anonymous,

Any time a client, having completed some form of treatment for disordered eating, states that they want treatment, I accept it. You are the best judge of what the disorder is demanding from you. You have battled anorexia. You now recognize that you have developed habits that are “shameful” and “horrible” to you. I congratulate your honesty and willingness to dive in and deal with the stealing and consumption amounts now before they become entrenched. I encourage you to meet with your father and inform him that you want his help seeking treatment immediately and that you fear that your mom’s desire for you to just maintain the course may not work. See if your father can assist in explaining to your mother that you need something different now versus waiting until later.

I do not think you can judge the need for treatment on external behavior alone (amount you currently weigh, amount of food you are eating, etc.) because there are internal factors that are contributors to the disordered eating—like feelings of shame and fear. If you feel ashamed of what you are doing and classify it as “horrible” then seek treatment. Let the treatment provider, upon meeting with you face-to-face, assess your need.

Keep in mind that it may only take the permission of one primary parent for you to receive treatment at the age of sixteen. Again, check with the treatment provider intake office regarding what has to happen for you to receive treatment. Perhaps if your mother and father accompany you to a screening appointment with a treatment provider she may come to understand how the process may benefit you.

Good luck! Please let us know how things work for you.