This post is brought to you by Oliver Pyatt Centers.
It’s right up there with every mom’s worst nightmare – a disease that threatens her child’s life, requires intensive treatment and can set them back in school and life. Bulimia nervosa is a dangerous mental health disorder which affects about 1.5 percent of all American girls and women. What’s worse, it tends to appear during adolescence, which of course is the most important developmental period for academics, socialization, and personality development. Bulimia nervosa recovery is hardly an easy process; residential eating disorder can take 30 days or more, depending on the severity.
That’s why any residential bulimia nervosa treatment program simply must include an academic component – so your daughter (or son) can keep up while building a foundation of body positivity and mindful eating.
When Should You Consider Eating Disorder Treatment?
Bulimia nervosa normally beings to show signs and symptoms in middle adolescence – that is, from age 13 to 18. It’s considered a severe mental health disorder and is one of the most dangerous eating disorders, following only anorexia nervosa in terms of the death rate. The behaviors that define bulimia nervosa are relatively well-known; a sufferer will engage in a binge-and-purge cycle that attempts to remove the calories taken in during the binge eating episodes. Before the binge-and-purge eating disorder behavior begins, there are several warning signs of bulimia nervosa to be aware of in children:
- Preoccupation with their weight
- Engaging in dieting at a young age
- Distorted or negative body image (imagining they are fat despite evidence to the contrary)
- Perfectionist tendencies
- Eating only certain types of food (no carbs, etc.)
- Developing food rituals (eat meats first, color grouping, etc.)
None of these on their own is a surefire indication that your child needs residential eating disorder treatment or even eating disorder therapy, but in combination, they present a foreshadowing of a potential problem. For adolescents at risk of developing bulimia nervosa, these precursor symptoms shouldn’t be ignored.
Parents should begin seeking out adolescent bulimia nervosa treatment when these signs begin to change into actual disordered behavior. Bulimia nervosa signs and symptoms include:
- Regular binge eating episodes
- These are eating a large amount of food in a short period
- Feelings of guilt and shame normally accompany this
- Binge eating episodes are usually in secret – they may spend lots of time in their room
- Purging behavior following the binge eating episodes
- The most common is self-induced vomiting; be aware of frequent trips to the bathroom (especially after meals) and the sounds and smells of vomit
- Use of laxatives or diuretics to purge – check for pillboxes in the trash
- Excessive exercise – to the point where it’s painful or they skip events to exercise
- Distorted body image and low self-esteem
- People with bulimia nervosa tend to think they are fat or overweight
- This is normally in spite of a normal or even overly thin body weight
If I Put Her in Residential Eating Disorder Treatment, Won’t She Fall Behind?
It’s a common concern, and a valid one; taking 30 to 90 days off from school can cause all kinds of setbacks in an adolescent’s education, social life, and athletics. Especially in the high school years, it is essential to find an eating disorder treatment center that focuses on bulimia nervosa AND includes some kind of academic or educational program.
The best eating disorder treatment programs for adolescents will provide several avenues to continue their patients’ educations. First, they should coordinate the student’s homework and reading assignments with her regular school and teachers, so that the curriculum isn’t interrupted. Secondly, the residential program should include several hours daily for studying and tutoring. Finally, if possible, they should have certified teachers and tutors on-site to make sure the education isn’t self-guided, but instead remains the highest quality.
Residential treatment for bulimia nervosa isn’t easy – but it’s necessary. For adolescents who need to go in for treatment, their healthy future is the top priority. Fortunately, a good center will make sure their education doesn’t suffer while they are getting help along the path to a bright future.