Warning Signs That Your Child May Have an Eating Disorder

List: Posted: 04/14/11

If you are a parent, finding out that your child might have an eating disorder can be a frightening time. Do not make the mistake of thinking that only girls suffer from the disorder. An eating disorder can affect boys as well, and some kinds of eating disorder can actually be more prevalent in boys. Here are some of the things that you will want to look for when you are trying to learn if your child or teen might have an eating disorder.

The easiest things to spot will likely be the physical problems associated with an eating disorder. The child may have unexplained weight loss and problems with digestion. He or she might be vomiting regularly, and may try to hide that fact. This can lead to esophageal problems as well as affecting the child's growth. 


Anorexia is one of the easiest disorders to diagnose but one of the hardest to treat. Symptoms may include obvious and continuous weight loss, dulling of the skin, hair and nails from malnutrition, lying and secretive behavior associated with food, and elaborate excuses made up to avoid eating in public in situations such as parties or dinners out. Your child may start dressing in heavy, baggy clothing to hide their weight loss, and complain constantly of tiredness and especially feeling cold. They will have a fear both of discovery and of being made to put the weight back on, leading to emotional outbursts, tantrums, and even running away if you attempt to treat them or take them to the doctor.


With bulimia, an easy symptom to spot may be that your child vanishes to the bathroom immediately after eating. They may return smelling of toothpaste or mouthwash in an attempt to hide the fact they have just made themselves vomit. You may notice that the food you buy vanishes very quickly, as they go through a 'binge and purge' where they eat (for instance) a whole packet of cookies or cakes in one go, them later throw them up. They may also suffer from sore throats and constant heartburn.


In many cases, you will also be able to notice psychological differences in your child who is experiencing an eating disorder. He or she might be suffering from depression, or they might have anxiety attacks. Fortunately, healthcare professionals including doctors and psychologists are learning more about the problem all the time. Each child may have a different catalyst that caused the eating disorder, but when one can get to the root of the problem, there is help.

Even though it may be difficult to talk with your child about the possibility of an eating disorder, it is something that you must do. You love your children, and together you will be able to get through anything that comes your way.

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