Unfortunately, mental health conditions can begin to develop at young ages. While it is challenging to diagnose mental health conditions in children as they still have developing to accomplish, they can begin to show early symptoms of mental health conditions. Sadly, eating disorders are often the mental health conditions that children are affected by. For families of these children, it’s important to begin identifying eating disorder symptoms so that the correct diagnosis and care can be utilized either presently or in the future.
The Prevalence of Eating Disorders in Children
Eating disorders are most commonly diagnosed in women who have already reached adulthood or at least are teenagers. However, it is possible for children to start developing mental health issues, including eating disorders, at an early age. And, it may even be more prevalent than most people might think. In fact, studies show that children are almost twice as likely to develop eating disorders than type two diabetes. And, that eating disorders are the deadliest types of mental health disorders among both children and adults.
The Effects of Eating Disorders on Children
While the most obvious threat of eating disorders to children is death, a number of other issues can arise as well. Some of the other dangerous effects eating disorders can have on children may include:
- Impaired cognitive development
- Delayed social development
- Negative social behaviors in school
- Mood swings (aggression, irritability, sadness, etc.)
- Inability to focus or stay on task
- Negative effects on memory due to lack of iron
- Lethargy caused by lack of nourishment
- An impaired immune system which can lead to the development of illness
Because children are still growing, eating disorders can have even more of an impact on health than they may for adults. Especially in their growing and developing years, children require proper nourishment to thrive and maintain good health. So, identifying signs of eating disorders early can help to prevent these many negative effects.
Eating Disorder Symptoms in Children
Because eating disorders are dangerous and can lead to physical and mental complications, it’s extremely important to be able to recognize eating disorder symptoms as a parent. Some of these symptoms can include:
- Refusing to eat regardless of what’s served
- Losing weight or failing to gain weight with age
- Eating less than usual
- Obsession with looks and body image
- Avoidance of social outings and friends
- The loss of hair and/or growth of fine body hair
- Hidden food
- Stunted growth
- Anxiety about eating or meal time
- Dieting and concerns about eating healthy
- Personality changes
Helping Children Showing Early Eating Disorder Symptoms
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your child, there are a few things you can do to help as a parent. Some of the steps a parent should consider taking may include:
- Remember, if you think something’s wrong, you’re probably right. Parents have great instincts when it comes to their children. So, trust your instincts and don’t feel ashamed about wanting to help your child.
- Research to gain your own knowledge of eating disorders. The more you know about your child’s mental health issues, the better prepared you’ll be to help.
- Don’t point fingers at yourself in blame. Eating disorders don’t develop because of how a child is raised. Instead of spending energy feeling bad about what you may have done to cause the issue, focus your energy on helping your child.
- Find resources for help. Family therapy and eating disorder specialists can help to offer comprehensive treatment plans which can help your child with an eating disorder. And, instill the knowledge and support needed to gain healthy thought patterns and eating habits.
Here at Willow Place for Women, we help women and teens gain healing from eating disorders. And, offer the community of support needed to live a life free from eating disorder symptoms. If you have questions about eating disorders and what eating disorder treatment entails, contact Willow Place for Women today.