Sunday, July 28, 2013

Could Your Child Have An Eating Disorder?

Is it possible that your child may have an eating disorder? While the vast majority of teens with eating disorders are female, males are far from exempt. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people with eating disorders are male. Regardless of gender, eating disorders are a serious problem that can easily go on underneath even the most attentive parent's nose. That's why it's important for us to know what to look for if we suspect something may be wrong.

The most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder.
Anorexia involves not eating at all or eating very small portions.

Bulimia involves a 'binge and purge' pattern-basically, eating a lot of food at one sitting and then 'getting rid of it', usually by throwing up but sometimes by obsessive exercise. It doesn't matter what they do; it's more about the guilt over the food and nervous urge to 'get it out'.

Binge-eating disorder is exactly what the name implies-compulsively eating extremely large amounts of food in a short period of time. Afterward, they feel disgusting and/or guilty but not to the point of 'purging'. They feel as though they can't control themselves.

A lot of the overeating associated with bulimia and binge-eating disorder is done in secret; remember that stash of candy you kept in your top drawer to keep it away from your little brother? Multiply that by about twenty.

The warning major warning signs-
-Unusually restrictive patterns of eating-obsessively counting calories and reading food labels, insistence on only eating 'certain' foods, etc. Dieters do this too, but to nowhere near the preoccupation level as anorexics.
-Dramatic changes or loss of weight in a relatively short period of time.
-Being a lot more secretive than before
-Excuses to avoid situations involving food- 'I ate a big lunch', 'I just need to lie down-I've got a headache.', 'I feel sick to my stomach'. 'I already ate.'
-Feelings of guilt or shame around eating
-Loss of hair
-Pallid skin tone
-Shivering and/or feeling cold when they normally wouldn't
-Vomiting excessively, especially when not otherwise sick (in the case of bulimics).

If you didn't notice these behaviors in your child, don't beat yourself up. One of the hallmark traits of eating disorders is the secrecy involved.

If you have a reason to believe that there is something wrong, don't be afraid to 'snoop around' a bit. We might be reluctant to check up on our kids because we want them to feel like we trust them and they tend to value their privacy, but thinking there might be a medical problem is more than enough of a reason to step in and look around. They might scream at you and say they hate you, but they will eventually come to understand that you did what you did for their own good.

If you're concerned about yourself or your child, here's a quiz that might help.

If you do find that either you or your child has an eating disorder, visit the doctor. It's likely that they'll need both physical and psychological help. There are rehab centers and clinics specifically geared toward eating disorders; hopefully it won't come to that, but it's worth asking your doctor about either way.

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