Send to

Choose Destination
Int J Eat Disord. 2017 Jul;50(7):826-833. doi: 10.1002/eat.22702. Epub 2017 Mar 21.

Characteristics of seeking treatment among U.S. adolescents with eating disorders.

Author information

Department of Psychology, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.
Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.



The majority of persons with eating disorders (EDs) do not seek ED treatment, yet little is known about treatment-seeking barriers or facilitators. The aim of the study is to describe the characteristics associated with seeking ED treatment among U.S. adolescents with EDs.


Data from a nationally representative cross-sectional study of U.S. adolescents ages 13-18 years were used for these analyses. Specifically, adolescents who met criteria for lifetime EDs (N = 281) were included. Sociodemographic information, characteristics of EDs, psychiatric comorbidities, and other mental health service use were assessed via interview.


Only 20% of adolescents sought ED treatment. Females were 2.2 (95% CI 0.8, 6.4) times more likely to seek treatment than males (19.9% vs. 8.9%). Adolescents who met criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa were 2.4 (95% CI 0.9, 6.3) and 1.9 (95% CI 1.0, 3.8) times more likely to seek treatment than adolescents who met criteria for binge-eating disorder (27.5% and 22.3% vs. 11.6%). Specific ED behaviors (restriction and purging), ED-related impairment, and any mental health service use were also associated with adolescent treatment seeking.


Adolescent treatment seeking was infrequent overall, with individuals with counter-stereotypic ED presentations least likely to have sought treatment. Adolescent treatment seeking could be promoted through increasing awareness among the public and healthcare professionals that EDs affect a heterogeneous group of people. More generally, research involving both treatment-seeking and non-treatment-seeking individuals holds great potential to refine the field's knowledge of ED etiology, prevalence, treatment, and prevention.


eating disorders; population-based studies; treatment seeking

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center