If you are the parent of a child struggling with an eating disorder, you may wonder if there is an optimal time to seek treatment. Ideally, you should seek help as soon as possible from a trusted eating disorder treatment center. And if you are thinking about postponing treatment until after the holidays, you should consider some of the benefits of reaching out for help sooner. Below are the top six reasons why fall is the best time to seek treatment for eating disorders.

1) Boost your odds of successful treatment

“Research on treatments for eating disorders, as well as most mental health problems in general, indicates that early identification and treatment improves the speed of recovery, reduces symptoms to a greater extent and improves the likelihood of staying free of the illness.” – Megan Jones, PsyD, and Tess Brown, National Eating Disorders Association

It is no secret that eating disorders are difficult to treat. And without prompt intervention, destructive eating behaviors are more likely to become ingrained and resistant to treatment. Seeking help right away this fall is thus recommended as a means of boosting odds for successful treatment. Specialists with the National Eating Disorders Association note that seeking help right away will help in the following ways:

  • Reduce eating disorder symptoms
  • Improve the speed of recovery
  • Increase the chances that the eating disorder will not resurface

2) Use insurance benefits before they reset

While your insurance benefits and deductible depend on the health insurance plan schedule set by your employer, most insurance deductibles reset on January 1 of each year. For this reason, many people seek treatment in December to use their benefits before they reset.

If your child requires residential treatment or partial hospitalization for an eating disorder, your treatment options might be more limited if you wait until the very end of the year to seek treatment. Hospital beds are more likely to be full and your provider options could be more limited. On the other hand, if you begin treatment in the fall, you can avoid these pitfalls while still maximizing your insurance benefits before they reset.

3) Take advantage of academic liaisons

By seeking treatment from a trusted treatment facility in the fall, you can take advantage of support from academic specialists. Center for Discovery, for instance, provides Academic Liaisons who are trained to work with your child’s school. Their goal is to ensure that your child can continue their studies in oursupportive residential treatment facility. Center for Discovery allocates up to 20 hours per week for children and teens to complete their schoolwork. 

4) Develop healthy coping mechanisms before the holidays

“The holidays can be a time of increased stress for many…There is a large emphasis on food, diet-talk is prevalent, and one’s sense of structure and routine is often challenged…It can be helpful to come up with a plan (with the support of your treatment team) surrounding how you will cope with the holiday.” – Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C

Eating disorders are difficult to manage and can be highly resistant to treatment. With the holidays approaching, it is important to get ahead of some of the food-related challenges that will surface during the holidays. The best way to do this is to learn appropriate coping mechanisms in the fall before the onset of the holidays.

By seeking professional medical treatment in the fall, children with Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder will be better equipped to handle the endless array of side dishes during Christmas dinner and the endless supply of food and drinks at holiday parties. Children with Anorexia, on the other hand, can learn how to respond to comments about their eating habits and people monitoring their food consumption.

5) Reduce the total number of days of missed school

Schools across the United States recognize Thanksgiving as an official holiday. Most children receive two or more days off from school for Thanksgiving and others receive a week off school for Fall Break. By moving forward with treatment in the fall, children will miss fewer days of school than they would if treatment were scheduled during the first three months of the year.

6) Avoid serious health consequences

“As a consequence of poor nutrition, a widespread endocrine disorder involving the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis develops, manifest in women by amenorrhoea and in men by a lack of sexual interest or potency. In prepubertal children, puberty is delayed and growth and physical development are usually stunted.” –  The British Psychological Society & The Royal College of Psychiatrists

Delaying treatment for a child with an eating disorder can cause life-altering consequences and even death. According to research by the British Psychological Society and the Royal College of Physicians, poor nutritional habits associated with eating disorders can lead to the following problems:

  • Amenorrhea, or the absence of periods in females
  • Stunted growth and physical development in young children
  • Lack of sexual interest or potency in older male children

The best way to avoid these consequences is to move forward with treatment in the fall instead of delaying care. An immediate intervention can often be the difference between a complicated recovery and a successful treatment outcome.

What should you do today if an eating disorder is affecting your child?

Whether you are a parent of a child with an eating disorder or a teen who worries that you may have an eating disorder yourself, it is important to seek help from an experienced professional. You can begin this process by taking a free eating disorder evaluation and completing our contact us form today. By taking this evaluation and requesting care, you are taking the first and most important step on the path to recovery. 

If your evaluation shows signs of an eating disorder, the skilled doctors, therapists, and registered dietitians with Center for Discovery are here to help you or your child overcome your struggles with food. With locations in eleven states, our goal is to provide treatment programs that minimize time missed from school. We invite you to contact us today for a confidential consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.