How to Recognize Signs of an Eating Disorder

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Eating disorders are on the rise, which raises serious concern for parents. Although eating disorders normally appear during adolescence or in early adulthood, children as young as 4 have also been susceptible to body image issues that can help to trigger eating disorders. Parents should understand the signs of an eating disorder so that it can be caught and treated early on.

Who is affected by eating disorders?

Females are more likely to suffer from anorexia. Approximately only 5% to 15% of those who are anorexic or bulimic are male; but when it comes to binge eating, this can affect as much as 35% of males. Eating disorders can affect all people regardless of gender, family background, age or socio-economic position, so it's important to rid yourself of the idea that a boy won't develop an eating disorder or that it can't affect your adult daughter.

Types of Eating Disorders

There are 3 primary types of eating disorders:

  • Bulimia - This is binge eating (excessive eating) where an individual will then purge (get rid of) their food by vomiting, taking laxatives, and/or through compulsive exercise.
  • Anorexia - This refers to a person whose obsessive fear of food or gaining weight (because of a distorted self image, body dysmorphic disorder, depression, control issues, or related issue) results in consuming very little food. This person has an inability to maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Binge Eating - This often involves bouts of impulsive, uncontrolled, and/or continuous eating without the purging that accompanies bulimia.

Signs of Bulimia

Bulimia and anorexia are similar in that there is an obsessive fear of gaining weight or a need to exert extreme control over this particular aspect of the person's life. Even if a child is not overweight, they may have the perception that they are. Here are some signs that you can look for concerning bulimia: