Does Your Child Have an Eating Disorder?

Upset african american child girl crying sitting alone on floor

One of the common issues among teens is their struggle with food and eating. This can be extremely frustrating for parents and caregivers to watch a child fluctuate in their food intake, weight loss or gain and the intensity of this type of disorder. It is helpful to know what symptoms to look for when assessing this type of issue.

Hannah Sheldon-Dean writes a very succinct and easy-to-read article for the Child Mind Institute website on this very topic. She provides us with some helpful guidance in how we understand the different types of eating disorders that teenagers may be experiencing. Here is an excerpt from this article:

When most people think of an eating disorder, what comes to mind is a painfully thin young woman who eats almost nothing. But there are actually three common eating disorders. Not everyone with an eating disorder appears underweight, and not all are women.

Three of the most common eating disorders in children and teenagers are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

Other eating issues that kids may be diagnosed with include avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), rumination disorder, and pica. Kids who have serious problems with eating that don’t match any of these disorders sometimes get a broad diagnosis called unspecified eating and feeding disorder.

Teen girl covered face with hands at meeting with psychologist. Problems of adolescent children, help of therapist, mental health of young people

Here is the link to the rest of the article. She continues providing specific information about each of the categories of eating disorders by listing the symptoms that are specific to each disorder.  This can be extremely helpful when caregivers of children are watching them change eating habits to the point of becoming extremely dysfunctional and jeopardizing their health. I know many parents who have witnessed such symptoms who are frustrated, fearful, sometimes angered and often do not know where to go or what to do. 

The prevalence of eating disorders is significant among teenagers as they develop into adults.  Their self-perception can often drive these eating patterns and can have significant impact into their self-image. Their physical development is so important as a teenager and this type of disorder can lead to other difficult consequences. The first step is to properly diagnose the problem and then to immediately seek help and counseling for your teenager.

Gerry Vassar


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