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

In the majority of diagnosed cases of eating disorders, the afflicted exhibit self-loathing and express particular dissatisfaction with their body, weight and food preferences.

Eating disorders often center on gaining self-control and a feeling that if one cannot control the situations around them, they can at least control what goes into their mouths, according to experts.

People with eating disorders use food to deal with unresolved, uncomfortable or painful emotions. Food can soothe sadness, anger, or loneliness for a moment. Purging is used to expel overwhelming feelings of helplessness or self-hatred. Left to their own devices, children with eating disorders see themselves as fat or terrible even when their weight is critically low. The issue comes to dominate everything in life and everyone around them.

Types of Eating Disorders

The most common eating disorders include: anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating

Anorexia –Children with anorexia starve themselves in fear of becoming fat. No matter how much weight they lose, they believe they are not thin enough. Left untreated, the problem often advances to a state of emaciation. Many anorexic youth become manic about exercising, using diet pills and purging each time they eat what they view as forbidden foods.

Bulimia – Following an episode of out-of-control binge eating, people with bulimia take drastic steps to purge themselves of unwanted calories ─ inducing vomiting, using laxatives or exercising excessively to avoid weight gain. These behaviors often lead to ulcers, acid reflux and other digestive system issues.

Binge Eating Disorder –Binge eaters compulsively overeat. Rapid consumption of thousands of calories in a short period of time to numb negative feelings or thoughts is often followed by feelings of guilt orremorse. Nearly everyone occasionally overeats, but uncontrollable repetitive behavior signals the need for professional intervention.

Editor's Note: This copy was reviewed by PsychSystems, a behavioral health group practice.

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