Eating disorders are characterized by unhealthy approaches to eating, weight and exercise. But they are more than a refusal to eat healthy; eating disorders are complex psychiatric disorders. If your child has an eating disorder, he or she also might have problems with self-image, anxiety and even depression. As many as 30 million people in the United States have an eating disorder. The causes of eating disorders continue to be researched. Biological, sociological, psychological and cultural factors can all play a part in the development of an eating disorder.
Signs of an Eating Disorder
Kids sometimes struggle with eating disorders for some time before anyone notices. Here are six signs that may indicate your child has a problem:
- Intense fear of weight gain or being “fat”
- Extreme concern with body weight and shape
- Unusual rituals or rules around food or eating
- Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body type, age, and activity level
- Repeated episodes of bingeing on large amounts of food
- Purging after a binge, by self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, or excessive exercise
What should you do as a parent?
If the signs are present, consider seeing your pediatrician or a mental health provider who specializes in the treatment of eating problems right away. The sooner you seek help, the better the prognosis. Ignoring the warning signs could potentially compromise your child’s health. Anorexia can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, while bulimia increases the risk for heart and esophagus issues. Normal adolescent growth and development can be affected. Girls with eating disorders throughout their adolescence can experience compromised estrogen production and bone density. Production of testosterone and other hormones can be delayed in boys. All children can experience delays in their physical, mental, and emotional development as a result of an eating disorder. For more information, contact the Children’s Health℠ Eating Disorders Clinic.
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