Eating disorders

What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is characterised by obsessive thoughts about food and body weight. People who severely limit the amount of food they eat have anorexia nervosa, people who eat lots of food in a very small time and then purge have bulimia and people who overeat may be compulsive overeaters. 

Research has shown that eating disorders can be found in people as young as seven years old and can extend to the elderly, although they are most common in adolescents and young adults. It is estimated that approximately one in 100 adolescent girls will develop anorexia nervosa - this is the third most common chronic illness for adolescent girls in Australia , after obesity and asthma.

How do we help children and young people who have an eating disorder?

The Children’s Hospital at Westmead provides tertiary, subspecialty eating disorder services within a clinical department with clinical, academic and research capacity. Services are provided in collaboration with Adolescent Medicine and Mental Health services. Services provided include inpatient and outpatient/ambulatory services. Outpatient services are provided utilising the Maudsley Approach. The eating disorder service at The Children's Hospital at Westmead undertakes a range of educational and training services as well as research programs.

The Child and Adolescent  Day Program for Eating Eating Disorders

The Network conducts the clinical program from Level 1, Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick.

The day-program focuses on aiming to recover normal weight and normalise food intake and eating behaviours while improving a young person’s and their family’s capacity to manage the illness and to reduce the psychological consequences.

The program involves:

  • 5-day per week program involving meals, school and psychological treatment;
  • Multifamily Therapy Program (MFT) that involves a 4-day workshop, followed by 6 additional days over the following 9 months for families and
  • 5-day intensive family therapy admissions

The service also provides clinical consultation, training and support to regional and rural families and clinicians for the treatment of young people with eating disorders. This is provided through a combination of video-link technology and intensive two-week family admissions.