Understanding Eating Disorders in Children and Teens

Reviewed Jun 30, 2017

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Summary

Signs of eating disorders:

  • Odd eating habits
  • Limiting food intake
  • Binging and purging

Children with an eating disorder will have odd eating habits. For example, anorexia nervosa causes a person to severely limit their eating. This can cause a person’s weight to drop by more than 15 percent of what is considered normal. Bulimia is a disorder where a person binges and then purges. Binging is when a person eats large amounts of food. Purging is when a person forces herself to throw up or takes laxatives to get rid of the food that was just eaten. Some people with an eating disorder only binge.

When eating disorders start

Eating disorders most often start in puberty or during teen years, when other bodily changes begin. Some cases of eating disorders have been noted in children as young as 9. They most often affect girls. But, in 2016, the National Institute of Health suggested that five to 15 percent of persons with anorexia or bulimia are boys, and up to 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorders are boys. Boys with eating disorders show the same symptoms as girls. The family may not know that their child has an eating disorder. This is because these children are experts at hiding their disorders. Left untreated, these disorders can seriously harm a child’s health. In rare cases, people have died from eating disorders.

How eating disorders happen

Eating disorders happen for many reasons. Most often, the child has an unrealistic body image. He believes he is fat when he really isn’t. Some believe that children with eating disorders feel like they have no control over their lives. So, their food intake gives them one way to have control in their life. Other problems may be present in a child with and eating disorder. These can include depression, peer pressure, abuse, and media pressure to be thin.

Because these children are experts at hiding their disorders, you need to trust your own instincts. There are certain behaviors you should note. Be aware if your child complains about being fat all the time. Take notice if she avoids meals, or makes excuses about why she has lost a great deal of weight. Also, be aware if your child spends long periods of time in the bathroom right after a meal. Coaches who find fault with your child’s weight can also add to an eating disorder.

Tips for parents

  • If you think your child has an eating disorder, have a doctor see him. Even though eating disorders can be serious, they also are very treatable.
  • Don’t force your child to eat. You won’t win this battle. Your child believes that food is the one thing she can control in her life. She won’t give up this control easily.
  • Treatment for eating disorders takes time, so be patient. It involves dealing with feelings and changing habits. Your child will be working to change a habit that has taken a long time to develop in the first place.
By Haline Grublak, CPHQ
Reviewed by Philip Merideth, MD, Peer Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Signs of eating disorders:

  • Odd eating habits
  • Limiting food intake
  • Binging and purging

Children with an eating disorder will have odd eating habits. For example, anorexia nervosa causes a person to severely limit their eating. This can cause a person’s weight to drop by more than 15 percent of what is considered normal. Bulimia is a disorder where a person binges and then purges. Binging is when a person eats large amounts of food. Purging is when a person forces herself to throw up or takes laxatives to get rid of the food that was just eaten. Some people with an eating disorder only binge.

When eating disorders start

Eating disorders most often start in puberty or during teen years, when other bodily changes begin. Some cases of eating disorders have been noted in children as young as 9. They most often affect girls. But, in 2016, the National Institute of Health suggested that five to 15 percent of persons with anorexia or bulimia are boys, and up to 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorders are boys. Boys with eating disorders show the same symptoms as girls. The family may not know that their child has an eating disorder. This is because these children are experts at hiding their disorders. Left untreated, these disorders can seriously harm a child’s health. In rare cases, people have died from eating disorders.

How eating disorders happen

Eating disorders happen for many reasons. Most often, the child has an unrealistic body image. He believes he is fat when he really isn’t. Some believe that children with eating disorders feel like they have no control over their lives. So, their food intake gives them one way to have control in their life. Other problems may be present in a child with and eating disorder. These can include depression, peer pressure, abuse, and media pressure to be thin.

Because these children are experts at hiding their disorders, you need to trust your own instincts. There are certain behaviors you should note. Be aware if your child complains about being fat all the time. Take notice if she avoids meals, or makes excuses about why she has lost a great deal of weight. Also, be aware if your child spends long periods of time in the bathroom right after a meal. Coaches who find fault with your child’s weight can also add to an eating disorder.

Tips for parents

  • If you think your child has an eating disorder, have a doctor see him. Even though eating disorders can be serious, they also are very treatable.
  • Don’t force your child to eat. You won’t win this battle. Your child believes that food is the one thing she can control in her life. She won’t give up this control easily.
  • Treatment for eating disorders takes time, so be patient. It involves dealing with feelings and changing habits. Your child will be working to change a habit that has taken a long time to develop in the first place.
By Haline Grublak, CPHQ
Reviewed by Philip Merideth, MD, Peer Advisor, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Signs of eating disorders:

  • Odd eating habits
  • Limiting food intake
  • Binging and purging

Children with an eating disorder will have odd eating habits. For example, anorexia nervosa causes a person to severely limit their eating. This can cause a person’s weight to drop by more than 15 percent of what is considered normal. Bulimia is a disorder where a person binges and then purges. Binging is when a person eats large amounts of food. Purging is when a person forces herself to throw up or takes laxatives to get rid of the food that was just eaten. Some people with an eating disorder only binge.

When eating disorders start

Eating disorders most often start in puberty or during teen years, when other bodily changes begin. Some cases of eating disorders have been noted in children as young as 9. They most often affect girls. But, in 2016, the National Institute of Health suggested that five to 15 percent of persons with anorexia or bulimia are boys, and up to 35 percent of those with binge-eating disorders are boys. Boys with eating disorders show the same symptoms as girls. The family may not know that their child has an eating disorder. This is because these children are experts at hiding their disorders. Left untreated, these disorders can seriously harm a child’s health. In rare cases, people have died from eating disorders.

How eating disorders happen

Eating disorders happen for many reasons. Most often, the child has an unrealistic body image. He believes he is fat when he really isn’t. Some believe that children with eating disorders feel like they have no control over their lives. So, their food intake gives them one way to have control in their life. Other problems may be present in a child with and eating disorder. These can include depression, peer pressure, abuse, and media pressure to be thin.

Because these children are experts at hiding their disorders, you need to trust your own instincts. There are certain behaviors you should note. Be aware if your child complains about being fat all the time. Take notice if she avoids meals, or makes excuses about why she has lost a great deal of weight. Also, be aware if your child spends long periods of time in the bathroom right after a meal. Coaches who find fault with your child’s weight can also add to an eating disorder.

Tips for parents

  • If you think your child has an eating disorder, have a doctor see him. Even though eating disorders can be serious, they also are very treatable.
  • Don’t force your child to eat. You won’t win this battle. Your child believes that food is the one thing she can control in her life. She won’t give up this control easily.
  • Treatment for eating disorders takes time, so be patient. It involves dealing with feelings and changing habits. Your child will be working to change a habit that has taken a long time to develop in the first place.
By Haline Grublak, CPHQ
Reviewed by Philip Merideth, MD, Peer Advisor, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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