Medical Providers Have Vital Lead Role in Diagnosing, Treating Restrictive Eating Disorders in Adolescents and Young Adults

February 26, 2015

Deerfield, IL — Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses that present during adolescence and young adulthood. In response to emerging research regarding eating disorders in this age group, and in support of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) presents new evidence-based recommendations for the medical management of restrictive eating disorders in adolescents and young adults, including a new approach to assessing the degree of malnutrition and standardization of related terminology.

SAHM’s position paper, Medical Management of Restrictive Eating Disorders in Adolescents and Young Adults, underscores the critical role the medical provider plays in recognizing and managing adolescents and young adults with restrictive eating disorders. The paper also presents recent advances that will support clinicians in the delivery of state-of-the art, evidence-based treatments to these young people.

“Eating disorders affect so many young people, and it’s critical that a physician have the education and skills to diagnose them correctly,” says Carol A. Ford, MD, FSAHM, president of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. “The support of family and a multidisciplinary team of professionals is essential to help a young person overcome an eating disorder. But it’s the medical provider who excludes other illnesses that can cause weight loss and is responsible for medical assessment and monitoring throughout treatment.”

The full position paper is published in the January 2015 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health; a PDF is available for download. Key issues addressed in it include:

  • The need for careful medical monitoring at each level of care to ensure safety and minimize long-term effects on health.
  • New diagnostic criteria for adolescents that eliminate a specific low-weight threshold, but include severity criteria based on clinical symptoms, the degree of functional disability, and the need for supervision.  These revised diagnostic criteria should increase early identification and immediate initiation of treatment.
  • A new approach to assessing the degree of malnutrition is proposed and standardization of terminology is recommended.
  • Refeeding young people with restrictive eating disorders can be accomplished safely and more rapidly via effective nutritional rehabilitation as a key component of medical care.
  • The medical practitioner has an important role in family-based therapy, a first-line psychological treatment for adolescents and some young adults with anorexia nervosa.  

To obtain more information or to speak to an expert, contact Justin Dreyfuss at SAHM headquarters, +1-847-753-5226 x351.


The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine is a multidisciplinary organization of health professionals who are committed to advancing the health and well-being of adolescents. Through education, research, clinical services and advocacy activities, members of SAHM strive to enhance public and professional awareness of adolescent health issues among families, educators, policy makers, youth-serving organizations, students who are considering a health career, as well as other health professionals. Learn more at

Media Contact:

Justin Dreyfuss, Marketing Communications Manager
+1-847-753-5226 x351

Scroll to Top