What Are Eating Disorders in Children? | Eating Disorders
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What Are Eating Disorders in Children? | Eating Disorders

August 18, 2019


Well, the first thing to say about the topic
of eating disorders in children is that eating disorders are actually a group of diagnoses
that effect adolescents and children in general quite frequently. Actually, the average onset of an eating disorder
like anorexia nervosa, for example, is around the time of puberty, or maybe three or four
years after the onset of puberty, so in the mid-teens or later teens. When we talk about eating disorders in children,
we’re talking about eating disorders, but it does surprise some people to hear that
they can effect children even younger than teens. Children at the age of 12, 10, or even sometimes
younger, we will see presenting to eating disorder clinics with eating disorder problems
and in need of help. There is some good news about eating disorders
in children, which is that if you can recognize it early, there’s a relatively good prognosis
for recovery or the person turning around the eating problem, and that is often particularly
the case if the child and the family can work together with an experienced professional
to help the child re-engage in proper feeding and eating behaviors. Children, of course, present special types
of problems, especially younger children, in terms of trying to figure out whether and
eating problem is going on. A child is not going to be able to describe
their emotional world in the same type of abstract way that an older adolescent or an
adult is going to be able to talk about their internal world. There may be more figuring out cues that you
see in children to figure out whether an eating problem is going on. Maybe a child is coming home from school and
they’re bring back their lunch, and it’s not eaten on most days. Maybe that tells you there’s something going
on. Weight loss, of course, if it seems to be
progressing, and in particular with children, while there can be weight fluctuations, if
you go to the pediatrician and the pediatrician says, “Your child has fallen off the growth
curve,” that could be an indication that something is going on. Clearly, in children you always have to rule
out, like with adults too, that there’s not a medical problem contributing to the weight
loss that better explains the eating problem. The good news, again, is that with early intervention
in these eating problems in children, there can be a relatively good prognosis, though
again, like with all eating problems in children and adults, early intervention and treatment
is critical.

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  1. I notice my 4 yr old niece developing an Emotional eating disorder. Started when she was 3. I don't know how to to tell my sister or the rest of the family that I'm noticing this.

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