HKQ Kids

Identifying Eating Disorders

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As hard as we may try, getting our kids to eat a healthy, balanced diet can be a challenge. Factors such as work, time, friends, school and peer pressure complicate food choices for our kids, and even for us. And as our kids grow, they may feel societal pressure as well.

Eating disorders such as binge eating, compulsive overeating, anorexia, bulimia are areas of concern for parents of growing adolescents. Girls are generally more susceptible. However, boys can suffer from an eating disorder as well. Early intervention provides the best chance of long-term recovery.

Physical Signs of an Eating Disorder

• Rapid or frequent weight changes
• Loss or disturbance of menstruation in girls and women and decreased libido in men
• Fainting or dizziness
• Feeling tired and not sleeping well
• Lethargy and low energy
• Signs of damage due to vomiting including swelling around the cheeks or jaw, calluses on knuckles, damage to teeth and bad breath
• Feeling cold most of the time, even in warm weather

Psychological and Behavioral Signs of an Eating Disorder

• Preoccupation with eating, food, body shape and weight
• Feeling anxious or irritable around meal times
• Feeling ‘out of control’ around food
• A distorted body image
• Using food as a source of comfort (e.g. eating as a way to deal with boredom, stress or depression)
• Using food as self-punishment (e.g. refusing to eat due to depression, stress or other emotional reasons)
• Frequent trips to the bathroom, especially during mealtime
• Compulsive or obsessive exercising
• Use of diuretics, laxatives, appetite suppressants

Eating disorders could deprive adolescent brain cells of energy eventually changing the way your kids process information. The change in brain chemistry is said to be a cause of distorted perceived body image. Untreated disorders could lead to serious medical complications.

If you suspect your kids may be experiencing an eating disorder, talk to your physician, who can start a treatment plan for you and your family. Families are an important part of the healing process. Chances of recovery will increase if family is involved in the support and treatment of the disorder. And, your kids will find it encouraging when you are a part of their recovery.

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