Awareness for February 2013 – Eating Disorders in Children and Teens

Eating Disorders in Children and Teens


 Eating disorders can cause serious health problems for children and teens.


Here is what to watch for.

 Major life threatening health problems can occur in children and teens; caused by severe changes in eating habits and eating disorders

Three main types of eating disorders are shown below:

  • Binge eating a condition in which a child may stuff themselves rapidly on food, but without purging.
  • Anorexia – a condition in which a child refuses to eat sufficient calories out of an irrational and intense fear of becoming fat.
  • Bulimia – a condition in which a child grossly overeats (binging) and then purges the food by vomiting or using laxatives to prevent weight gain

In children and teens, eating disorders can coincide; for example, some children alternate between periods of anorexia and bulimia.

Eating disorders generally develop during adolescence or early adulthood, the can however, start in childhood also.

Females are much more susceptible while only an estimated 5% to 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male while “Binge eating”, the number rises to 35% male.

What causes eating disorders?

Doctors are not certain what causes eating disorders:

  • They do however; suspect a combination of behavioral, genetic, and social factors.
  • For instance, young people may be influenced by cultural images

Numerous children and teens with eating disorders wrestle with one or more of the following problems:

  1. distress
  2. fear of becoming overweight
  3. feelings of helplessness
  4. low self-esteem

To cope with these issues, children and teens may take up harmful eating habits.  In fact, eating disorders often go hand-in-hand with other psychiatric problems such as the following:

  1. anxiety disorders
  2. depression
  3. substance abuse

The dangers of eating disorders

Eating disorders in children and teens can lead to a multitude of serious physical problems and even death.

If you notice any of the signs of the following eating disorders, contact your child’s doctor right away.

Eating disorders cannot be overcome with sheer willpower.  Your child will need treatment to help restore normal weight and eating habits.

Treatment also addresses underlying psychological issues.

Excellent results happen when eating disorders are treated at the earliest stages.

Anorexia in children and teens

Children and teens with anorexia have a distorted picture of their body image.  They view themselves as heavy, even when they are seriously skinny.  They are fanatical with being thin and refuse to maintain even the lowest normal weight.

The National Institute of Mental Health, say that roughly one out of every twenty-five girls and women will have anorexia in their lifetime and most will deny that they have an eating disorder.

Symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Extraordinary eating habits, for example, s avoiding meals, eating in secret, scrutinizing every bite of food, or eating certain foods in small amounts.
  • Deep fear of becoming fat, even though one is underweight.
  • Excessive or compulsive exercising
  • Anxiety, depression, perfectionism, or being highly self-critical
  • Dieting even when one is thin or emaciated
  • Rapid weight loss, which the person may try to conceal with loose clothing.
  • Menstruation that becomes infrequent or stops.

Parents please make yourself aware of the Web sites promoting eating disorders and discuss these sites with your child.  I know it is hard, I was not even aware that a young female relative had a problem until she told me years later.  It was lucky she somehow realized herself that it was wrong and got help however, it has left her with a heart condition which is permanent.

Help for Parents with Children/ Under 18:

 Visit the following links for helping your child with an eating disorder: – United States


Copyright: Sylvia McGrath, February 2013