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Early Identification is Key to Effective Treatment of Eating Disorders

Aug 26, 2016 10:10AM ● By MED Magazine

Ensuring the most favorable outcome in children with eating disorders begins with early identification. The first line of defense is the child’s pediatrician, who can recognize if the child is at risk for an eating disorder. Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, which runs the region’s only fully-pediatric day treatment program for eating disorders, offers the following diagnostic tips:


Eating disorders can be difficult to uncover. Possible symptoms include:

●       Dramatic changes in eating patterns or weight

●       Excessive focus or concern about body size

●       Unrealistic physical self-image

●       Excessive exercising

●       Fatigue/tiredness

●       Insomnia/sleeping too much

●       Dizziness/fainting

●       Brittle hair/nails, loss of hair

●       Weakness/loss of muscle mass


Over time, eating disorders can also result in:

●       Social withdrawal

●       Mood shifts

●       Anxiety

●       Lack of interest in activities

●       Loss of menstrual cycle

●       Dental problems


“We’re not seeing the percentage of patients we should be seeing.,” says Michael Vance, PhD., director of Children’s Behavioral Health, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center. “A lot of these kids are being dismissed as picky eaters or anxious kids. Too often, they’re not being referred until they’ve hit the point of pretty severe malnutrition,”


Offering a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) level of care, Children’s Eating Disorders Program utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to treat patients with eating disorders and ancillary problems such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.


Group therapy, pet therapy and family sessions are facilitated by a psychologist or a mental health practitioner. Dietitians supervise the nutritional components of the program and a recreation therapist will oversee the recreation therapy/exercise education group. An on-staff educator works with students to help them stay on pace with homework and tests. Referring physicians are kept apprised of progress to the degree they have indicated.


“There are a lot of fine points and intricacies to be aware of.,” says Martin Harrington, MD, medical director of Children’s Eating Disorders Program.  “By having a team, it helps make sure you’re covering all your bases.”