Eating Disorders

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are serious physical and mental illnesses often involving an unhealthy preoccupation with eating, exercise, and body weight or shape. They typically start around the preteen and teen years and affect people of all sizes and from all cultures and backgrounds.

Eating disorders can significantly affect a person’s quality of life and cause severe and life-threatening medical complications. Early detection and treatment can prevent negative outcomes and promote a happy, healthy and productive life.

Eating Disorder Treatment at Seattle Children’s

Our Eating Disorders Clinic provides coordinated nursing, medical, nutritional and social work support for the management of eating disorders, including:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Other specified feeding and eating disorder (OSFED)

We work closely with your child and family and mental health providers to offer medical oversight and nutrition education. Our team includes doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, dietitians, medical assistants and social workers. We do not currently have psychologists or mental health therapists in our clinic, but we partner with mental health providers in the community.

Why choose Seattle Children’s for eating disorder treatment?

Our Eating Disorders team has expert training in the medical and nutritional treatment of adolescents with eating disorders. We work closely with your child and other members of the healthcare team to create care plans that work for your family.

  • At Seattle Children’s, your child has a team behind them, from diagnosis through treatment and follow-up. From our appointment schedulers to our pediatric nurses, our team has the expertise to offer the care your child needs.

  • Our team provides medical oversight and nutrition counseling for your child and works in partnership with your child’s mental health provider. We can also support you in finding a therapist with experience in the treatment of eating disorders.

    Research shows that a person’s physical, emotional and social development during adolescence can affect their overall health throughout their life. Our Eating Disorders providers have specialized training in adolescent medicine, giving them a deeper understanding of the development that happens during adolescence and into early adulthood. This helps us create a care plan that uniquely addresses your child’s development now and into the future.  

Conditions We Treat

Our Eating Disorders team cares for young people with conditions including:

  • People with anorexia nervosa (anorexia) often limit or decrease the amount and types of food they eat. This causes some to lose large amounts of weight, which can stop their bodies from working correctly. They may also vomit, take laxatives or exercise too much to control their weight. People with anorexia, like those with other eating disorders, are often very critical of themselves and have negative feelings about food and their body weight, no matter their shape or size.

  • People with ARFID have highly selective eating habits and do not eat certain types of food. Over time, this can cause problems with the way their bodies work and how they grow. Different from other eating disorders, ARFID does not involve distress about body shape or size, although some people may feel upset about having a low weight

  • People with bulimia nervosa (bulimia) go back and forth between eating too much (binging) and purging by forcing themselves to vomit or to exercise too much. Over time, this can cause many problems with the way their bodies work. People with bulimia may lose and regain weight. As with other eating disorders, people with bulimia are often very critical of themselves and have negative feelings about food and their body weight, no matter their shape or size.

  • People with OSFED have disordered eating behaviors that do not meet all of the specific criteria for another eating disorder. Some common forms of OSFED are orthorexia, body dysmorphic disorder, and excessive or compulsive exercise. Over time, this can cause problems with the way their bodies work.

Services We Provide

  • We will evaluate your child’s health and determine if they have an eating disorder. If they do, we will work with your family to create a treatment plan. Our team will provide medical checkups and nutritional counseling. We will also help you find a mental health therapist.

  • We partner with you and your child’s primary care provider to monitor the physical effects of malnourishment. This includes regular measurements of vital signs, physical examinations, ordering and evaluating lab tests and, in some cases, prescribing medicine.

  • Our clinical dietitians have special training in helping adolescents form a positive relationship with food and their bodies. We recognize that helping teens change the way they eat is complex. We help them develop regular and nourishing eating patterns so they can learn to trust food, trust their bodies and reach their life goals. Learn more about outpatient nutrition counseling (PDF) (Spanish).

  • If your teen is medically unstable, we may recommend a medical admission to the hospital to safely restore nutrition. 

Scheduling an Appointment With the Eating Disorders Care Team

Contact Us

For more information, contact the Eating Disorders team at 206-987-2028. If you would like an appointment, ask your child’s primary care provider for a referral.

Providers, see how to refer a patient.

Paying for Care

Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s, including insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.

Access Additional Resources

Get resources for patients and families, including information on food, housing, transportation, financial assistance, mental health and more.