Eating Disorders In Children

Eating disorders usually develop in childhood and are more frequently observed in females. Only an estimated 5%-15% of males are affected by eating disorders specifically anorexia and bulimia and 35% of the male population are into binge eating.

Children with eating disorders can suffer from major health issues in their later years if the condition is left untreated. Following are the three kinds of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia: Refusal to have food because of a strong and unreasonable fear of gaining weight.
  • Bulimia: Eating excessively and then puking it out to prevent weight gain, sometimes by using laxatives.
  • Binge eating: Rapidly stuffing oneself with food but without purging.

What causes eating disorders?

Eating disorders may be because of physical or psychological disorders as well as social reasons. It is often observed that the young population suffers from eating disorders is mainly because they prefer being lean and underweight. It is also considered healthy to be underweight by some people. Teens are especially obsessed with being skinny and underweight. Those with eating disorders suffer from:

  1. being scared of becoming overweight
  2. vulnerability
  3. low self-esteem
  4. anxiety
  5. substance abuse
  6. depression
  7. rapid weight loss
  8. irregular menstruation
  9. mood swings

Severe eating disorders can lead to:

  • spoiling of major organs (especially the brain, heart & kidneys)
  • irregular breathing rates and pulse
  • low blood pressure and body temperature
  • excessively sensitive to cold
  • decalcification
  • swelling of the digestive tract and salivary glands

How can you help your child suffering from eating disorders?

  1. Make sure to avoid discussing portion sizes and the content of meals during mealtime.
  2. Make a serious effort to hide your worries before them during mealtimes.
  3. Keep away low-fat or diet food from them or when they are around.
  4. If you feel that your child is trying to take control of the meal by helping you with cooking, try to divert them by asking them to help with other household chores or setting up the table before a meal.
  5. Pop up conversations that are not related to food during mealtimes and do not let them understand that you are concerned about their food habit.
  6. Distract them from the pouring urge to over-exercise after meals by spending some quality family time together.

Most importantly try to identify the type of eating disorder your child is suffering from. Sometimes parents overthink and worry about their child not eating the right amount of food and panic. It is advisable to consult a child counselor to help solve this issue. A trained and experienced counselor can figure out the reason for the eating disorder of your child if it is because of any psychological problem like anxiety or depression.

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