An eating disorder is considered a mental illness. It causes people to become obsessed with their weight and food, and it can cause both men and women to not eat at all, binge eat, or binge eat and purge afterward. More than half of teenage girls and one-third of teenage boys will restrict themselves in order to lose weight, and nearly half of 9 to 11-year-olds will go on a diet. Eating disorders are a serious issue in the United States, and you need to be vigilant and know the signs so you can keep an eye on your child. Here are some signs that your child has an eating disorder.
While not all signs of an eating disorder are obvious, a noticeable weight change is the most obvious. When it comes to kids and teenagers, they should be gaining weight as they grow. Sometimes kids will grow a little taller and thin out before they gain more weight, but if they begin looking unhealthy, there is an issue going on. The weight change doesn't necessarily mean that your child is losing weight. It can be a severe loss or a severe gain. While children should gain weight to make up for their new height, they shouldn't be gaining excess fat.
Counting calories is another large red flag. Unless your child is overweight and on a supervised diet, counting calories should not be a concern whatsoever. If you see your child adding up calories for each thing that he or she eats, you should start considering seeking professional help, especially if your child isn't overweight to begin with.
Exercise is a great thing at any age. From early childhood, children should be outside playing and expelling their energy. It teaches them to be fit and active early on so it becomes a habit. In fact, children should play actively for about an hour per day. While children and teenagers should want to exercise regularly, it shouldn't become an unhealthy obsession. If you catch your teen working out at odd hours of the day such as early in the morning and late at night, it could be a bad sign. If you teen is exercising until he or she is severely exhausted or multiple times per day, those are other bad signs. Make sure you pay attention to how your teen is exercising and monitor it the best you can.
Overeating or Refusing to Eat
Having an eating disorder can cause your child to either eat too much or too little. If he or she is eating several plates of food, or on the other end of the scope, barely eating at all, those are both red flags. You might think that overeating isn't a big deal if your child doesn't appear to be gaining weight, but that could be a sign of bulimia. If you think your child might be bulimic, watch to see if he or she disappears into the bathroom after dinner or is using laxatives on a regular basis.
Food hoarding can be seen in children who are losing or gaining weight. It's a common sign for people who binge eat. Some people will collect food from the kitchen and hide it in drawers or under their bed. This way they can binge eat in private so it remains a secret. If you find food stashes in your child's bedroom, it's a sign that an eating disorder has developed.
Eating disorders are frightening and can be life-threatening. Make sure you stay vigilant and be supportive. Also, don't try to treat the disorder yourself. Treatment centers, such as Eating Disorder Treatments by Center for Change, have the resources so your child can overcome the disorder successfully.