How to Help Your Daughter Struggling with Both a Mood and Eating Disorder

Mood and Eating Disorder

Having a teenage daughter who may be dealing with both a mood disorder and an eating disorder can feel overwhelming and challenging. The reality is that mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, often occur together. Research has found that approximately 80 percent of individuals with eating disorders also develop another psychological disorder at some point in their lives, including mood disorders [1].

In many situations, mood disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety, and eating disorders may have been triggered by a trauma-related incident or experience. Trauma can elicit emotional and mental responses that are difficult to cope with, especially for a teenager. As a parent, you may be able to recognize a mental health condition in your teenager by some of the following symptoms:

  • Mood swings, or sudden changes in typical behaviors
  • Changes in appetite
  • Rapid weight fluctuations
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Anger, Irritability
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness
  • Self-harm/suicidal ideations or intentions

If your teenager has experienced a traumatic event and is struggling with a mood and eating disorder, be aware that this may be related to a heightened reaction to an abnormal situation and is not a character flaw or weakness.  Both eating disorders and mood disorders are severe medical and psychiatric illnesses, not conditions that develop by choice or something that can be overcome by willpower alone.

Seeking Professional Help

Because of the complexities involved with overlapping eating disorders, mood disorders, and the underlying psychological issues related to both, professional help and support are critical for finding recovery and healing. In many cases, anxiety, depression, and emotional dysregulation will continue after eating disorder recovery, so it is important to have a treatment team that can support long-term recovery for both disorders. Treatment for co-occurring mood and eating disorders will help a teenager resolve any trauma-related issues while focusing on restoring normal weight and eating habits.

As a parent, it may be helpful to understand that the recovery process for your daughter will require time, effort, and dedication to the treatment process. The combination of an eating disorder and mood disorder can lead to life-long consequences if not treated appropriately and with effective methods. You want to be able to support your daughter through the recovery process and not feel the responsibility for making them better. Ultimately, connecting with professional help is one of the most powerful ways you can support her recovery journey.

Understanding Treatment Approaches

Comprehensive treatment can provide effective interventions for both mood and eating disorders. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, this may involve acute/inpatient or residential treatment within a safe, nurturing environment. Because eating disorders and mood disorders often have overlapping symptoms and may interplay with one another, seeking treatment for both disorders simultaneously can support optimal recovery.

Addressing the underlying causes of both eating and mood disorders is a foundational component of healing and recovery. For example, if unresolved trauma has influenced an eating disorder, mood disorder, or both, it is important to therapeutically address and resolve these trauma-related issues to overcome negative behaviors.

As a parent of a teen who is struggling with both a mood and eating disorder, it is important to know that your family does not need to go through this journey alone. By connecting to professional help, you can ensure that your family has the necessary resources and tools to successfully overcome the struggles you may be facing together.

Seeing your daughter suffer from these combined disorders can leave you feeling exhausted, even helpless as for how to best help your child. Know that there is hope for recovery and healing. Be a listening ear, and remember that your daughter needs compassion and empathy as they learn how to navigate their recovery journey. It is also crucial for you to find support for yourself as well so that you can better help your teenager through this process.

If your daughter is in need of specialized treatment for co-occurring mood and eating disorders, consider connecting with The Meadows Ranch today. We offer a holistic treatment program unparalleled in producing successful results for girls with dual diagnosis concerns and the underlying issues they may be facing. They also have an intensive family program designed to ensure the transition back to daily life is successful. Contact us today to learn how we can help support you and your daughter on the road to recovery and healing.




[1]: Klump, K/L., Bulik C.M., Haye, W.H., Treasure, J., and Tyson, E. (2009). Academy for Eating Disorders Position Paper: Eating Disorders are serious mental illnesses. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 42 (2), 97-103.