How Likely Are Teens to Seek Treatment for Eating Disorders?

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Adolescents meeting anorexia criteria were more likely to seek treatment than those with binge-eating disorder
Adolescents meeting anorexia criteria were more likely to seek treatment than those with binge-eating disorder

HealthDay News — Adolescents with eating disorders infrequently seek treatment, according to a study published online March 21 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Lauren N. Forrest, from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and colleagues used data from a nationally representative cross-sectional study of U.S. adolescents aged 13 to 18 years to identify adolescents meeting the criteria for lifetime eating disorders. An interview assessed sociodemographic information, characteristics of eating disorders, psychiatric comorbidities, and other mental health service use. 

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The researchers found that only 20% of adolescents sought eating disorder treatment. Females were more likely to seek treatment than males (19.9 versus 8.9%). Adolescents who met criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa were 2.4 and 1.9 times, respectively, more likely to seek treatment than adolescents who met criteria for binge-eating disorder. Treatment seeking was also associated with specific eating disorder behaviors (restriction and purging), eating disorder-related impairment, and any mental health service use.

"Adolescent treatment seeking was infrequent overall, with individuals with counter-stereotypic eating disorder presentations least likely to have sought treatment," the authors write. "Adolescent treatment seeking could be promoted through increasing awareness among the public and health care professionals that eating disorders affect a heterogeneous group of people."

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