What to Do if You Suspect Your Child has an Eating Disorder

What to Do if You Suspect Your Child has an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders often are not related to food or weight issues at all, according to experts who indicate that the majority of diagnosed cases stem from emotional and stress-related issues.

How children and teens relate to food may be a strong, visible look at how they relate to life itself, if they are strong and balanced or fearful of life around them. Forcing a child to start eating or stop binging won't change anything, it could drive the problem deeper. Offer support and encouragement, and seek support from a trusted professional when symptoms become evident.

Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating disorders involve extreme disturbances in eating behaviors— binging on food, throwing up after meals, obsessively counting calories or embarking on strange diets, like an all cabbage or fruit diet. These behaviors are dangerous and more complicated than many might think and seldom have little to do with unhealthy dietary habits.

Common Warning Signs:

  • Preoccupation with body size/shape or weight
  • Obsession with counting calories, nutrition and food
  • Relentless interest in dieting, regardless weight loss
  • Compulsive and/or rigid exercising
  • Rapid, unexplained weight loss or weight gainLaxative or diet pill use
  • Eating alone and/or avoiding family meals
  • Frequent bathroom use after food consumption
  • Hiding high-calorie foods for private consumption

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Parental Tips

Many kids with an eating disorder will react defensively and angrily when confronted for the first time. In addition to the health problems, kids who have an eating disorder are probably not having much fun. They tend to pull away from friends and keep to themselves, avoiding going out for pizza with their friends, for example, or enjoying a birthday party.

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