3 Myths About ED Treatment in Adolescents Debunked

Walden’s Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) Director, Scott Schinaman, Clears Up Parent’s Misconceptions  About Sending Their Child Into Eating Disorder Treatment

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Myth 1: My child will develop new and perhaps more dangerous behaviors.

Scott: These types of behaviors will almost certainly develop intrinsically. It’s not fair to say that the treatment environment is responsible for exacerbated eating disorder behaviors. If clients coming in for eating disorder treatment are there to learn new “tricks” to feed their disease they definitely will. Alternately, if these clients really wanted to discover new negative habits, all they need to do is go on Google.

In addition, it is important to mention, while children play an active and important role in their eating disorder treatment, Walden’s Adolescent IOP is structured around the Maudsley Approach, a family-centered therapy.  This method of treatment  teaches parents and caregivers how to take an active role to regain authority over anything food related in their child’s life. With Walden’s attentive staff, and caregivers strict monitoring of behaviors around food, the chances of a child developing new and more dangerous behaviors is significantly lower.

Myth 2: My child will become competitive with their peers in treatment

Scott: This is often a fear of many parents due to the fact that, with weight restoration being this level of care’s primary objective, many clients will notice their bodies beginning to change. When living with an eating disorder, the change in eating routines and the change in appearance evokes extreme anxiety and clients will naturally look to their peers to ensure they are experiencing the same uncomfortable sensations.

Although it is a rarity for patients going through treatment, we have seen clients who compare their bodies to those of others in their program which has ultimately led to the regression of old behaviors. The good thing about being in treatment at Walden is that if competitive behaviors emerge, professionals at our clinics are trained to identify these unhealthy habits and take action to try and redirect their client’s attention. After the behaviors are discovered, we help clients to first recognize all of the advantages to living an eating disorder-free life and then work to eliminate outside distractions by focusing on their own path to recovery.

Contrary to the belief of many, group therapy is often the most useful treatment tool for recovering adolescents. For any adolescent, regardless of mental stability, it is extremely important for them to feel as though somebody understands them. Group therapy is a very effective way for adolescents to recognize that they are not alone and that in treatment they are surrounded by people who may be experiencing the same thoughts or performing the same behaviors.

In a satisfaction survey, that I disperse to all adolescent intensive outpatient clients at the conclusion of their treatment, the most helpful piece of treatment reported was the support of one’s peers. In this way, it seems that the very thing that parents or guardians seem to fear the most when thinking about seeking treatment for their child, is actually the most valuable.

Myth 3: If I address that my child has a problem it will get worse

Scott:  In my experience, 95% of clients entering Walden’s Adolescent IOP, don’t believe they have a problem. People who are struggling with an eating disorder become so entrenched in the disease that they don’t believe their behavior or their thought processes surrounding food are abnormal. In addressing your concern for your child, and helping them to understand that what they are doing is dangerous and unhealthy, you can help your child in the first step to recovery; recognizing that there is a problem.

Recovery cannot begin to happen until the parent decides to take action, which may at first bring ill feelings from their child, and seek professional help. Understandingly, many parents simply want to make their child feel better. Though parent’s intentions undoubtedly come from a place of love, in catering to their child’s emotional needs before their physical needs, parents are actually “feeding” their child’s eating disorder, and slowing down their child’s recovery process.

When a parent enrolls their child into Walden’s Adolescent IOP, they are taking control of their child’s poor eating habits and ensuring that proper nutrition and weight restoration are obtained. It is often said that nothing can get better before it gets worse. It may feel like this in the beginning of your child’s recovery as they are coming face to face with their eating disorder and attempting to quiet its voice. You will notice your child experiencing higher amounts of anxiety as their treatment begins. This is because they are starting to replace negative behaviors that they have grown comfortable performing, with more appropriate eating habits and ways of thinking. Ultimately, this is all part of the recovery process.

Parents that choose to take control over the health of their children are paving the way for their child to begin their journey to a life without an eating disorder.

Click here to learn more about Walden’s Adolescent IOP.

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