Is it an Eating Disorder? Parents, Trust Your Instincts

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Question

Your son or daughter is behaving differently around food and seems preoccupied with his or her body shape or size. Should you be concerned? Yes: These behaviors and attitudes may be signs of an eating disorder. Eating disorders—including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder—have serious medical consequences. It’s crucial to know the signs and symptoms and to get help immediately: Early detection, diagnosis and treatment can improve the course and outcome of treatment.

In those prone to developing eating disorders (due to genetics, personality traits, etc.), the onset is often triggered by a change in eating habits. For example: Going on a diet, fasting, or eating less for sports performance may trigger restrictive eating, bingeing, and/or purging. These behaviors are not only extremely harmful to health, they alter the body’s chemistry which maintains and ingrains the behaviors.

Learn the signs and symptoms of eating disorders. If you notice something is awry with your child’s behavior, listen to your intuition: As a parent, you know your child best. Arm yourself with knowledge about eating disorders, and discuss your concerns with healthcare professionals with expertise in treating eating disorders. Your child’s health—and perhaps his or her life—may depend on it.

Some Possible Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders
(visit NationalEatingDisorders.org for a complete list)

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Hides body with layers or baggy clothes
  • Is preoccupied with weight, food, calories, fat grams
  • Makes frequent comments about feeling “fat”
  • Complains of constipation, abdominal pain, cold intolerance, lethargy
  • Develops food rituals
  • Withdraws from usual friends and activities

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