Eating disorders are all too common and especially worrisome, particularly among teenagers and children. Children and teens who develop eating disorders can do long-term damage to their health, but in the short-term can do grave harm as well, including causing life-threatening health issues.
If you notice your child exhibiting any of the signs in this article, it’s probably time to sit them down and have a discussion about it. Your child may not want to open up about it and may display feelings of anger, aggression, or complete withdrawal, so be patient. Try as many times as you need to in order to get them to talk about it and realize there is a problem. Remember to always remain calm, don’t be accusatory or judgemental, and offer your complete and unconditional support while they go through this difficult time.
One of the ways you can best support your child is by providing them with the right treatment to get better. A treatment center like edentreatment.com is an excellent option. There are trained medical professionals as well as therapists and dieticians who will work one-on-one with your child to create and follow a treatment plan that works for them. Eating disorders aren’t a condition you can get rid of with willpower, so finding the proper help is key to getting your child back to their healthy habits.
Taking it back a few steps, it’s critical that you understand what the different eating disorders are and can recognize the signs that your child has an eating disorder. This can be the start of a journey to good health, positive mindsets and healing.
What are the most common eating disorders?
The three main types of eating disorders your child can develop are anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating. Anorexia is a condition where your child refuses to eat because of an intense and irrational fear of gaining too much weight. Bulimia is a condition where your child eats way too much food and then purges it, either by vomiting or using laxatives, in order to prevent themselves from gaining weight. Binge eating is similar to bulimia, but your child won’t purge after eating.
It’s fairly common for eating disorders to overlap and co-exist with other mental health issues in children and teenagers. They could have a period of anorexia and then switch over to a period of bulimia. Being able to recognize the signs for each type of eating disorder can help you find the best treatment for them.
What are the signs of anorexia?
Children and teens who struggle with anorexia will see themselves as heavy, even if they are unhealthily and dangerously thin. Their obsession with being skinny gets in the way of maintaining any sort of healthy weight.
The symptoms of anorexia can include:
- Increased anxiety, depression, or intensely self-critical
- An obsession with counting calories or excessive exercise
- An obsession with being overweight, even if they’re clearly underweight
- An unusual obsession with food
- Rapid weight loss and trying to hide it by wearing baggy, ill-fitting clothing
- Skipping meals, refusing to eat in front of others, or only eating specific foods in specific quantities
Anorexia is the most dangerous eating disorder and most deadly mental health disorder, with roughly one in every 10 cases ending in fatality. If your child is displaying any of these signs, get in touch with their doctor immediately and ask for help.
What are the signs of bulimia?
Similar to those with anorexia, kids and teens with bulimia are also obsessed with and terrified of gaining weight and have severe body dysmorphia. Those who are bulimic may be within a normal weight range, or even a bit overweight, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t acting unhealthily. An official bulimia diagnosis is made after two or more episodes per week lasting over at least three months, but you don’t have to wait that long to realize there is an issue.
The symptoms of bulimia can include:
- Abusing laxatives or other medicines to stop them from gaining weight
- Abusing drugs and alcohol
- Eating in secret (i.e. after everyone has gone to bed or when nobody is home)
- Mood swings and increased feelings of anger and aggression
- Increased anxiety and depressive thoughts and feelings
- Trips to the bathroom after meals
- Scarring on their knuckles from purging
- Problems with their teeth and skin from purging
Bulimia can cause other health problems like acid reflux and lower the level of potassium in the blood, leading to abnormal heart rhythms. If you suspect your child is bulimic, get in touch with their doctor right away.
What are the signs of binge eating?
Binge eating is a similar eating disorder to bulimia, except there is no purging involved afterwards. Because of this, binge eaters tend to gain an excessive amount of weight, leading to obesity.
The symptoms of binge eating can include:
- Feelings of overwhelming emotion (anger, sadness, stress, etc.) that trigger a binge
- Depression or anger from a loss of control
- Rapid weight gain
- Unusual eating habits, like refusing to eat in front of people and eating excessively when nobody is around
Binge eaters are at risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, among other health issues that come from being overweight or obese, like joint pain. If you think your child or teen is struggling with binge eating, call their doctor to get some help.