Eating Disorders Association: Eating Disorders – Does Your Child Have One?

Does your child have a distorted body image? Do they fear becoming fat? Have you noticed your child becoming socially withdrawn? If so, your child may have, or be developing, an eating disorder. Within the last 30 to 40 years, the prevalence of eating disorders has skyrocketed. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, over 10 million girls and 1 million boys will suffer from this disorder throughout their lives. Let us take a look at some important signs that can help you recognize this disorder before it is too late.

First off, let us familiarize you with the two most prevalent types of eating disorders; anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia begins when an individual experiences an intense fear of gaining weight and being fat. Individuals with this disorder have extremely distorted views of their body, often believing that they are overweight when, in fact, they are much too skinny. To be classified as anorexic, an individual must be 15% below their ideal body weight. Generally anorexia affects girls, but like all of these disorders, boys are not exempt.

Bulimia is another serious disorder in which an individual engages in binge eating. During a binge, the individual will eat large portions of food. After binging, they will purge, removing all foods from their body through vomiting, fasting, abusing laxatives, or excessively exercising. Unlike anorexics, bulimics are not necessarily underweight. Some bulimics may even be overweight!

The cause of eating disorders is unknown. Medical professionals believe, however, that there is a variety of factors that contribute to these problems including psychological factors, genetic factors, and social factors. What is known about this condition is that they are extremely dangerous. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychological illness and bulimia is known to cause extreme medical damage. This is why noticing the signs of an eating disorder are so important.

What are the signs of this type of problem? If your child is developing or has any of these problems, they will likely be showing signs of a distorted body image. Those who develop eating disorders usually see themselves as overweight and have an intense fear of becoming ‘fat’. If your child has an eating disorder they may also be refusing to eat, engaging in strenuous exercise, eating in secret, or heading straight to the bathroom after eating. Other signs of eating disorders include social withdrawal, weight changes (both increases and decreases in weight), depression, cramping, irritability, dizziness, muscle weakness, dry skin, tooth discoloration, and thinning of hair.

If you notice a combination of any of the above symptoms in your child, set up a doctor appointment immediately. Chances are, your child does not have any of these problems. But if they do, it is important that you catch it before it is too late.

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National Eating Disorders Association – Our Video Story – The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. We campaign for prevention, improved access to quality treatment, and increased research funding to better understand and treat eating disorders. We work with partners and volunteers to develop programs and tools to help everyone who seeks assistance. In 1999, NEDA established a toll-free helpline and has assisted more than 50000 people find appropriate treatment. Tallying more than 50 million web hits each year, NEDA is proud to serve as a clearinghouse of information on eating disorders.


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