In the past few decades researchers focused on eating disorders, their general causes, and treatment strategies.
However, it has mainly been in the last few years that researchers have begun to take a hard look at eating disorders in teenagers and
the reasons why these disorders are developing at such a young age.
It may surprise you to know that eating disorders are found in children as young as 4 and that it is estimated that about 3 percent of
anorexics are prepubescent. This means that by the time a child reaches their teenage years, he or she may have already had an
eating disorder for quite some time.
What are the causes of eating disorders? Some of the key factors that researchers have found include:
There is a relationship between family context, parental input, and eating disorders
Mothers who suffer or have suffered from an eating disorder have a significant impact on their daughters' eating patterns
Types of Childhood Eating Disorders
In children and teenagers, there are often variants of the two most common eating disorders found in adults; anorexia nervosa
and bulimia nervosa. These disorders include selective eating, food avoidance emotional disorder, and pervasive refusal syndrome.
Because so many children do not fit all of the requirements for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and eating disorders not otherwise
specified, parents and medical experts frequently have a diffcult time recognizing the problem before it becomes severe.
The following are some behaviors that are indicative of a child with an eating disorder:
Failure to maintain the steady weight gain expected for age, or actual weight loss (particularly more than 15% in children and young adolescent girls)
Overconcern with weight and shape
Other common features include self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, excessive exercising, distorted body image,
and morbid preoccupation with energy intake.
If left untreated physical complications may include dehydration,
electrolyte imbalance, hypothermia, poor peripheral circulation and even
circulatory failure, cardiac arrythmias, hepatic steatosis, and - in girls - ovarian and uterine regression.
Eating disorders are increasing in boys and girls of almost all ages.
Because eating disorders are most successfully treated when diagnosed and treated early, seeking the help of a qualified mental health professional
can be important. Often, children and teenagers will tell a therapist things about their eating patterns that they won't share with their parents.