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How to Recognize Eating Disorders in Teens and Children

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You may notice that your child has become abnormally obsessed with their diet, their weight, and the food they eat. They may complain about feeling cold all the time, experiencing abdominal cramps, getting dizzy while standing, or their weight fluxes dramatically. These are general warning signs that your child may be suffering from an eating disorder. Eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. They are serious, but treatable, conditions that negatively affect a person’s mental and physical health. Eating disorders can co-occur with certain mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. In recent years, the prevalence of eating disorders in children and young adults has risen. 

 

“Unfortunately, eating disorders are on the rise even more due to the anxiety and stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to be aware of your child or teen’s eating habits and behaviors.  

I encourage families to try to have at least one “family meal” a day together sitting at the table, with no distractions (putting phones away and turning TV’s off). This is an opportunity for everyone in the family to learn more about each other, connect and bond as a family. This is also a time when children learn healthy eating habits and parents can observe eating behaviors and find out what’s going on at school.  

If you suspect any problematic behaviors, we can refer you to eating disorder specialists. There are also a variety of free online support groups that are available for eating disorders.” 

 - Amber Odom, RDN,LD ">Amber Odom, RDN,LD  Registered Dietitian from Village Health Partners 

 

The three most common eating disorders among younger age groups are Anorexia, Binge Eating, and Bulimia. Being able to identify the signs and symptoms of these eating disorders early can increase your child’s possibility of a much faster recovery. Keep reading to learn more about these conditions and how to recognize the signs of each. 

 


Anorexia 

Anorexia is considered a cycle of self-starvation that results in the inability to maintain a healthy weight, dramatic weight loss or lack of appropriate weight gain in adolescents, and a distorted viewpoint of the body. You cannot tell if a person is suffering from Anorexia by their appearance. Instead, they will often display certain behaviors as indicators of their eating disorder. 

Signs of Anorexia can include:  

  • Extreme fear of being overweight 
  • Comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss 
  • Obsession with dieting, calories, and food intake 

Click here to learn more about Anorexia and for a comprehensive list of warning signs and symptoms. 

 


Binge Eating 

Binge Eating is classified as eating an abnormally large amount of food for a typical person in a 2-hour window of time. A person may feel that they lack control while eating and is followed by feelings of guilt, shame, and distress. 

Signs of Binge Eating can include:  

  • The disappearance of large amounts of food in a short period of time 
  • The presence of an abnormal amount of food wrappers and empty food containers 
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs of vomiting, and/or evidence of misuse of laxatives 

Click here to learn more about Binge Eating and for a comprehensive list of warning signs and symptoms. 

 

 

Bulimia 

Bulimia is defined as a nonending cycle of binge eating and subsequent self- induced vomiting. Those with Bulimia often have other self-harming conditions such as substance abuse, insulin misuse, and/or self-injury. 

Signs of Bulimia can include:  

  • Signs similar to those of Binge Eating 
  • Extreme use of gum, mouthwash, and/or mints 
  • Swelling cheeks and jaw, as well as discolored or yellowed teeth 

Click here to learn more about Bulimia and for a comprehensive list of warning signs and symptoms. 

 

If you suspect your child may be suffering from an eating disorder, contact their doctor as soon as possible. Schedule an appointment with Village Pediatrics by clicking here or by texting your preferred location below: 

Village Pediatrics Plano (469) 382-3796


Village Pediatrics Frisco (972) 525-7381 


* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.