Should Your Child Go to a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist?

If you’re concerned that your child has an eating disorder, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by questions and choices. Should you be worried? Do you need to seek help? If so, who is best qualified to help your child? It’s important to be informed when answering all of those questions, and consulting a certified eating disorder specialist could be a smart first step. But before you can make the decision about whether to get a professional assessment, you need to understand the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder. Read on to learn what a certified eating disorder specialist is and how to determine if your child could benefit from seeing one.

What is a certified eating disorder specialist?

The term “eating disorder specialist” isn’t regulated, so if someone calls themselves an eating disorder specialist, it can be hard to know what that means. Thankfully, there are other ways to determine if someone truly specializes in eating disorders, including their experience, training, awards, published papers, and more. One other signifier that someone specializes in eating disorders is the Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS) title.

CEDS is a title issued by the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp), and it refers to a licensed therapist or medical provider who, according to iaedp, “has completed high-level training and exam assessment in the effective and collaborative treatment of feeding and eating disorders.” Someone with a CEDS certification is knowledgeable about medical, nutritional, and therapeutic treatment considerations for eating disorders, adheres to a high level of professional ethics, and commits to ongoing specialized education in the field of eating disorders.

It’s important to note that someone can, indeed, specialize in treating eating disorders without a CEDS certification, and many of the leaders in the field do not have one. However, it can be a useful way to get a quick understanding of a provider’s qualifications. If you’re considering working with a provider who doesn’t have the CEDS title, you can get a similar sense of their qualifications by looking at their education, experience, reviews, published research, awards, and other information.

Signs your child should see a certified eating disorder specialist

So how can you determine whether your loved one needs to seek professional help for an eating disorder? The signs and symptoms below are a good place to start.

Changes in eating patterns

Have there been noticeable changes in your child’s eating habits? These changes could range from extreme dieting to avoiding certain food groups to skipping meals or eating in private and other unusual eating behaviors. Sudden changes in your child’s eating patterns are one of the primary signs that they might be struggling with an eating disorder. These changes often include eating significantly more or less food than usual. A certified eating disorder specialist can help assess the severity of your child’s diet changes and whether an eating disorder is at their root.

Body image distress

Listening to your child is essential for identifying the signs of an eating disorder. If they are expressing negative thoughts and feelings about their body, it may mean that they’re struggling with disordered thoughts. Some children will directly verbalize dissatisfaction with their body, while others may make more subtle comments about wanting to change the way they look. A certified eating disorder specialist can help your child address their negative thought patterns and improve the relationship with their body.

Academic decline

Changes in academic performance can be attributed to many factors, but when it occurs alongside other eating disorder symptoms, it can be a warning sign. Eating disorders make school harder in a lot of ways. Dietary changes caused by an eating disorder can have a major impact on cognitive function and concentration, while food-related anxiety and stressors can distract from schoolwork. If your child’s academic decline can’t be explained by other factors, an eating disorder could be the cause. With the help of a certified eating disorder specialist, your family can identify and address the source of your child’s struggles at school.

Weight changes

Has your child gained or lost a significant amount of weight without any clear medical reason? Unexplained weight changes—or falling off the growth curve for growing children—are often an early eating disorder warning sign of an eating disorder. A certified eating disorder specialist can help ensure that your child receives proper nutrition, restoring them to a stable weight.

Secretive eating

Secrecy around eating can signal an eating disorder. Your child might be hiding their eating habits due to feelings of shame and guilt. These feelings may even drive your child to avoid eating in social settings. In addition to eating in secret, people with eating disorders often hide food; these behaviors tend to be rooted in perceived judgment from others. A certified eating disorder specialist can create a safe space for your child to discuss their behaviors and feelings without judgment.


While young people can be irritable for a variety of reasons, an eating disorder can be at the root of some mood swings and irritability. If your child seems to be more frustrated and emotionally unstable, alongside other concerning signs, their emotional volatility could be caused by an eating disorder. Irritability and mood swings may still occur, but they can improve over time with proper treatment by an eating disorder specialist.

If you’re considering finding a certified eating disorder specialist for your child, we can help. At Equip, each patient is matched with a dedicated 5-person provider team that includes a therapist, medical provider, registered dietitian, peer mentor, and family mentor, and they’ll work with you and your child to develop a tailored treatment plan that meets their unique needs.

Get in touch with our team today for more information or to schedule a consultation.

Kate Willsky
Senior Manager, Content
Clinically reviewed by:
Pepper Snider, LMHC
Therapist at Equip
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