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Could My Child Have an Eating Disorder?

Could My Child Have an Eating Disorder?

Sadly, millions of people in the US struggle with an eating disorder, and these struggles usually begin during the teenage years. Although there are several kinds of eating disorders, the two most common are anorexia nervosa (self-starvation) and bulimia nervosa (bingeing and purging).

Who’s at Risk

Most eating disorders start between the ages of 14 and 17, although they can start earlier. While girls are more likely to develop an eating disorder, boys are not immune; the ratio of girls to boys with an eating disorder is about 10:1. Girls are more likely to have bulimia or anorexia (according to healthychildren.org, males make up about 15% of anorexia cases), but boys are more likely than girls to develop a binge-eating disorder (where they binge, but do not purge afterwards).

Some adolescent athletes and performers are also at higher risk than other youth. Certain sports, like ballet, dance, gymnastics, and wrestling, place a great emphasis on an athlete’s weight or physical appearance. We absolutely promote activeness and we are NOT saying these sports are bad, but sometimes athletes will go to extreme measures to maintain or lose weight. Adolescents who are in modeling are also at a higher risk because of the media’s often unrealistic portrayal and promotion of beauty and thinness.

Warning Signs

Many individuals with eating disorders hide it very well. Often, they even manage to hide it from loved ones and close friends. The following list from healthychildren.org might help you identify adolescents who are struggling with an eating disorder:

  • Preoccupation with food, weight, or body shape
  • Distorted body image
  • Long periods of time spent in the bathroom—sometimes with the faucet running, to mask the sound of vomiting
  • Depression or feelings of failure
  • Anxiety about eating, especially dining out in public
  • Abuse of laxatives, enemas, emetics, or diuretics
  • Spending less time with family and friends; becoming more isolated, withdrawn, secretive
  • Stealing food and hoarding it in unusual places, such as in the closet or under the bed

 

Of course, this list is not exhaustive, nor do all individuals show these signs. If you’re concerned that your child is battling an eating disorder, talk to your pediatrician immediately. Early diagnosis is key in order to get these kids the help they need. I always tell parents to trust their gut instincts and never feel like, “I don’t want to go to the doctor because she’ll probably tell me it’s nothing.”

For more information on the web, visit healthychildren.org or aap.org. If you have questions or would like to discuss any concerns you have regarding eating disorders, you can schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Kathryn Mandal, by calling 817-617-8600 or scheduling online at continuumtx.com.