Treatments for Binge Eating Disorder in Children

Eating disorders like binge-eating are usually treated with a combination of:

  • individual therapy (usually including both cognitive and behavioral techniques)
  • family therapy
  • nutritional rehabilitation
  • behavior modification

Medication (usually antidepressants) may be helpful if your child is also feeling depressed. It's important to remember that family members play a vital supportive role in any treatment process.

The Eating Disorders Program at Boston Children's Hospital

Children's Eating Disorders Program is committed to helping you, your child and your family at every step of the treatment process. The program uses a multidisciplinary approach for evaluation and treatment to help formulate an individualized treatment plan and make preliminary recommendations that will work best for your child's individual needs and circumstances.

Providers in our Eating Disorders Program see both inpatients and outpatients —about 200 new cases annually. As outpatients, adolescents are seen by a physician from Children's Division of Adolescent Medicine, as well as a dietician. Your child will also see a psychologist or social worker with whom you can meet separately. Your doctor will recommend follow-up visits if necessary.

If your child becomes really sick—her condition gets worse, causing unstable vital signs, for example—he or she will be admitted to the hospital. Inpatients are placed on the hospital's "Restrictive Eating" clinical practice guideline. This means they meet with the same types of caregivers as an outpatient would, while participating in a special meal plan with customized weight gain goals.

What to expect at your appointment

While no patient's experience is exactly like another's, below is a general idea of what you will experience when your child has an appointment in the Children's Eating Disorders Program.

What to bring

Please bring contact information for any providers your child is seeing (therapist, nutritionist, pediatricians).

Your first appointment

Your initial consultation will include:

  • A medical evaluation by a doctor skilled in adolescent medicine and eating disorder treatment. The doctor will assess your child's health by checking her height, weight, blood pressure, pulse and temperature, and will determine the severity of any existing medical complications she may have. Our doctor will contact your child's primary care provider to help coordinate care.
  • A mental health consultation with a counselor experienced in treating adolescent eating disorders. Fighting back against these disorders requires improving your child's body image and self-esteem and addressing other emotional issues.
    • During treatment, some adolescents discover they have other problems such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or substance abuse. The therapist can assist in diagnosing these difficulties. Therapy can also be an important part of getting well if family tensions, relationships with friends or poor communication skills are disrupting your child's life.
  • A nutrition evaluation with a dietician. This can help you and your child create a safe eating plan and answer questions about food. Teens receive many mixed messages in a culture obsessed with fast food, dieting and body image. The dietician can discuss some of these harmful myths, and help your child design an individualized guide to achieving healthy eating and healthy living.

Your additional appointments

After the initial evaluation, the Eating Disorders Program will help you set up appropriate treatment. The program works with primary care providers to ensure a comprehensive treatment program. Referrals to local health care providers, as well as to providers At Boston Children's Hospital, are available.

Treatment may involve:

  • Ongoing individual and family therapy
  • Medical monitoring
  • Nutritional support