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Eating & Body Image Problems

Take me to the effective therapies for eating disorders

Many children and teens worry about their eating, weight, or body shape. But, for some children and teens, these worries can lead to unhealthy eating or dieting, known as eating disorders. It is important to get children with eating disorders early evidence-based treatment because many disorders can lead to medical problems.

What are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are caused by strange eating behaviors. These behaviors are usually harmful ways to control body shape or weight, and cause the child to view his or her own body in a negative way. There are a variety of eating disorders, including:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Pica
  • Rumination disorder

 

 

Effective Therapies for Eating Disorders

Doctors have found certain treatments are the most helpful for children with eating disorders.

  • For anorexia nervosa, research shows that family-based treatment—also known as Maudsley family therapy works well
  • For bulimia nervosa, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and family-based treatment are options that “might work”
  • Binge eating disorder was only recently identified as an eating disorder. Because of this, there are no child and teen therapies that have been tested for effectiveness. But, CBT is somewhat effective in teens with binge eating disorder

Research has shown that some medications, such as antidepressants, may be helpful for adolescents suffering from bulimia nervosa, but only as a second option to therapy. Additionally, while atypical antipsychotics for body image distortion, weight-gain fears, and anxiety related to anorexia nervosa have been shown to be helpful in adults, there is no solid evidence to suggest that these medications work well for adolescents.

 

Tested Therapies for Adolescent Anorexia Nervosa
Level One:
Works Well
  • Family therapy-behavior (AKA, family-based treatment or Maudsley family therapy)
Level Two:
Works
  • Family therapy-systemic
  • Insight-oriented psychotherapy (individual)
Level Three:
Might Work
  • None
Level Four:
Experimental
Level Five:
Tested and Does Not Work
  • None

To find out more about how these treatment levels are defined, click here.

Therapies and Terms Defined:

  • CBT: cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Family Therapy-behavior, also called family-based treatment (FBT) and Maudsley family therapy

Source(s): Lock, J. (2015). An Update on Evidence-Based Psychosocial Treatments for Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology , 44(5), 707–721. http://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2014.971458

 

Tested Therapies for Adolescent Bulimia Nervosa
Level One:
Works Well
  • None
Level Two:
Works
  • None
Level Three:
Might Work
  • Family therapy – behavioral (AKA, family-based treatment or Maudsley family therapy)
  • CBT (guided self-help/individual)
Level Four:
Experimental
  • CBT (individual)
  • Supportive psychotherapy (individual)
Level Five:
Tested and Does Not Work
  • None

To find out more about how these treatment levels are defined, click here.

Therapies and Terms Defined

  • CBT: cognitive behavioral therapy

Source(s): Lock, J. (2015). An Update on Evidence-Based Psychosocial Treatments for Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology , 44(5), 707–721. http://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2014.971458

Lock, J., La Via, M. Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents With Eating Disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 54(5), 412-425. http://www.jaacap.com/article/S0890-8567(15)00070-2/pdf

Last updated on: Aug 01, 2017