Does Your Child Have an Eating Disorder? 8 Warning Signs
by Elizabeth Easton, PsyD
Previously, it was believed that eating disorders were "a teenage girl's" disease. However, this is no longer the case. More men and boys, as well as younger and younger children, are seeking treatment for eating disorders and concerns.
About 35-37% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting or take diet pills or laxatives, reports the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Even more frightening is the fact that 42% of first- through third-grade girls say that they want to be thinner. That's right, while learning multiplication tables and tallying money, kids are now consumed with counting calories.
Avoid making accusations. Rather than suggesting your child's eating habits may be worrisome, ask direct questions. For example, "I've noticed you haven't been eating dessert lately. Is there a reason you're doing that?"
Be supportive. Emphasize that your child is not in trouble, but that you are concerned and want to be there for support.
Be firm. If you are worried about your child's health to the point he or she needs to see a doctor, tell your child what is going to happen. For example, "This morning, we're going to talk to a doctor about your health."
Seek qualified resources. Your family's physician, your child's pediatrician or a local eating disorders treatment center can provide useful information to help you better understand eating disorders and to help you determine the most appropriate treatment option for your child.
If your child does develop an eating disorder, try not to shoulder the blame yourself. Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses stemming from a variety of contributing factors; they are not any one person's -- or parent's -- fault. Being able to recognize the warning signs and being an active part of eating disorders treatment will help provide an environment conducive to the recovery process.