Does your child have an eating disorder? They aren't alone. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), more than 28 million people in the United States will have an eating disorder during their lifetime. If your child or teen was recently diagnosed with anorexia, take a look at what you need to know about medical treatment.
Why May Your Child Need Medical Care?
Anorexia treatment may include different psychological and medical options. While psychological services (such as individual and group therapy) can help your child to heal, some people with an eating disorder also need medical assistance or support.
Medical care is often necessary for children with eating disorders who:
- Require monitoring. A severe eating disorder can cause low heart rate (bradycardia) or low blood pressure. If your child has either of these issues, they may need a medical professional to monitor their vital signs.
- Are dehydrated. Eating disorders can result in potentially serious dehydration. A medical provider may need to monitor your child's hydration level or provide IV hydration.
- Need a feeding tube. Severe anorexia may require immediate intervention. If your child won't or can't eat, a medical provider may need to insert a nasogastric feeding tube that starts in the nose and goes to the stomach.
Only a qualified medical professional can decide whether your child needs these types of treatments or monitoring. If you suspect your child does have anorexia, contact their doctor or an eating disorder specialist for an assessment or more information as soon as possible.
Where Can Your Child Get the Care They Need?
After your child has a doctor's or specialist's diagnosis, it's time to take the next step and find the right type of treatment for their needs. If you're looking for eating disorder treatment:
- Start with a pediatrician or PCP. The primary care physician can do more than start the diagnostic process. If you need to connect with a specialist, your PCP can help you to find the right professional to treat your child.
- Try multiple professionals. Your child may need more than one type of treatment or service. Along with medical care, your child may also need to see a dietician and psychologist.
- Learn more about treatment approaches. What type of medical care does your child need? What about psychological treatment? Talk to an eating disorder staff member or specialist about the options before you choose one.
Your child's doctor may also need to evaluate the risk for secondary conditions. Again, low heart rate and blood pressure are serious side effects of anorexia. If the doctor feels your child may have other coexisting medical conditions, they'll also need to treat these issues along with the primary eating disorder.