Eating disorders are growing at a staggering rate and in many parts of the world, not enough is being done to tackle the problem, particularly among young people.
Millions of people suffer worldwide and it can often be difficult to spot, meaning many of our children are suffering in silence.
It isn’t impossible to spot the signs though and there are a few things to look out for and get your child the eating disorder treatment they need.
But what exactly should you be looking out for?
Table of Contents
Dramatic Weight Loss
One of the most prominent signs of an eating disorder is rapid and significant weight loss. While weight fluctuations are normal during a child’s growth and development, an alarming drop in weight should raise concerns. Pay attention to any sudden changes in your child’s body shape or size, as well as remarks about being “fat” or needing to lose weight excessively. Extreme preoccupation with appearance and an intense fear of gaining weight can indicate the presence of an eating disorder.
Obsessive Food Habits
Noticeable changes in your child’s eating habits, such as restrictive or fussy eating, should not be taken lightly. Children with eating disorders may become overly preoccupied with food, develop strict dietary rules, or exhibit avoidance of entire food groups. They may also engage in secretive behaviour around food, such as hiding or disposing of it. Watch out for signs of unusual food rituals, excessive calorie counting, or rigid mealtime routines, as these can be indications of an eating disorder.
Distorted Body Image
Children with eating disorders often experience distorted body image, perceiving themselves as overweight or undesirable, even when they are underweight or at a healthy weight. They may excessively criticise their appearance, express dissatisfaction with their body, or engage in excessive exercise as a means of “compensating” for their perceived flaws. If your child frequently expresses dissatisfaction with their body or displays obsessive behaviours related to appearance, it may be a red flag for an eating disorder.
Social Withdrawal and Mood Changes
Eating disorders can significantly impact a child’s emotional well-being. Noticeable changes in your child’s social behaviour, such as withdrawing from friends and family, avoiding social events involving food, or becoming unusually isolated, could be signs of an eating disorder. Additionally, mood swings, irritability, and heightened anxiety around mealtimes or discussions about food may also indicate underlying psychological distress associated with disordered eating.
Physical symptoms associated with eating disorders should not be ignored. Keep an eye out for signs such as frequent dizziness, fatigue, weakness, and feeling cold even in warm environments. Hair loss, brittle nails, dry skin, and a bluish discoloration of extremities can also indicate nutritional deficiencies and inadequate food intake. In severe cases, children may experience fainting episodes or have disruptions in their menstrual cycle. If you notice any of these physical symptoms in your child, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly.