How Does a Child Present with Anorexia?

anorexia signs symptomsToday, children as young as six years old are being diagnosed with eating disorders. In addition to the classic signs and symptoms of anorexia, a child may present with the following:

  • Classic self starvation behavior
  • Severe anxiety
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Obsessive thoughts related to a fear of eating and a fear of getting fat
  • Tremendous psychological torment
  • Desire to please their parents, but cannot bring themselves to eat the food as their parents request
  • Not typically an act of defiance, but a serious obsessive thought disorder which must be carefully treated by mental health professionals who are experienced with eating disorders and related co-morbidities
  • Persistent food avoidance and weight loss for emotional reasons
  • Some children may not have body image concerns or obsessions
  • Eating disorders in children need to be distinguished from feeding disorders that might cause failure to thrive and growth problems
  • Disturbed parent-child relationships often manifest with food and eating problems

This article was first published on

Common Eating Disorder Myths

eating disorder help

Common Eating Disorder Myths

1) Individuals suffering from anorexia are easy to identify. Due to extreme thinness, it is sometimes easier to identify a person who struggles with anorexia than other Eating Disorders, but simply being thin is not the determining factor. There are medical issues that might cause someone to be unusually thin, or it could be an inherited body type. Appearance is not the exclusive determinant of an Eating Disorder. People struggling with Eating Disorders come in all shapes and sizes.

2) Physicians and other healthcare professionals can be counted on to discover and diagnose an Eating Disorder. Though we would like to believe this is true, unfortunately, it is not always the case. Sometimes, due to a lacked of training/education or lack of exposure to Eating Disorders, professionals may not catch the behavior. Remember, a professional may only see and talk with the individual for a few minutes during a visit. Most Eating Disorder behavior goes on behind closed doors and is denied.Parents are the cause of their child’s Eating Disorder. Genetic research is being done to determine what role family genes play, but there are also many other contributions to an Eating Disorder. Factors outside the family are influential, such as media, peers, and trauma.

3) Eating Disorders affect only the rich or celebrities. Eating Disorders cross all socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, and religious boundaries. Many suffer in silence, without the social spotlight or camera.
Normal or overweight people do not have an Eating Disorder. A person with Bulimia often has normal body weight. That is why it can be so difficult to notice. Most ED issues are about the person’s relationship with food, not his or her appearance.

4) A fat-free or low-carb diet is healthy. Any diet that severely limits an entire food group, emphasizes excessive consumption of one or two foods, or permits very high or very low caloric intake is unhealthy. All foods are acceptable, and can fit into a healthy diet. Fat is needed for the body and brain to operate as they were designed. 25%-35% of caloric intake should come from fat. Healthy eating is guided by balance, variety, and moderation.

5) Eating Disorders are not fatal. Thankfully, this can be true, but not always. Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder; as high as 10% of those with anorexia and 1% of those with bulimia will die as a result of the disorder.

6) A “natural” diet pill is a “safe” diet pill. The FDA does not regulate many over-the-counter foood supplements. Advertisements often distort the truth about the results a diet pill or supplement will provide. The practice of dieting itself, even without the use of pills, can lead to Eating Disorders.

7) Laxatives are an effective way to prevent the absorption of calories. The use/abuse of laxatives only depletes the body’s store of fluids. Laxatives react with the colon, where absorption of calories takes place. Laxative abuse can lead to extreme dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and additional medical complication up to and including the need for a colostomy.

8) A person who “always eats” does not have an Eating Disorder. A person practicing an Eating Disorder may only play with his or her food, making it appear as though they have eaten a meal. He or she may eat at such a slow rate that they only consume a few calories. He or she may even eat large amounts of food, but of insufficient variety to offer proper nutrition. They may later secretly purge the food they have eaten.

9) “I obviously don’t have an Eating Disorder.” Simply saying it does not make it so. People often state what they believe others want to hear or what they want to believe about themselves. Or they may be misled about Eating Disorders.

10) Exercise is good – you can never overdo a good thing. You can overdo a good thing. Excessive exercise is a problem, potentially leading to stress fractures of the bone, chronic pain, curvature of the spine, osteopenia or osteoporosis, loss of menstrual cycle, and even sudden death.

 11) People with Eating Disorders are vain. Although a few people with anorexia want to look like super models, for most people with Eating Disorders nothing could be further from the truth. Far from flaunting their bodies, they are often disgusted by their bodies.

12) Eating Disorders are a temporary way to lose weight. Eating Disorders rapidly get out of control due to chemical changes they produce in the body. What starts as a way to get control of one’s eating quickly takes over the person’s entire life. Many people with Eating Disorders feel trapped and unable to stop their behavior, even though they know they are hurting themselves.

13) Cutting and other self-injurious behaviors are not related to an eating disorder. While one behavior is not likely to cause the other, both the Eating Disorder and self-harm are an attempt to deal with stress or trauma and often occur together.

What is Drunkorexia & Drugorexia?

Drunkorexia DrugorexiaDrunkorexia is a combination of restricting type eating disorders and binge drinking. This extremely dangerous combination of disorders is becoming increasingly common among high school and college age girls.

Reasons for Drunkorexia:

  1. To feel less inhibited in social contexts.
  2. Wanting to be skinny at all costs.
  3. To go out, be popular and party without gaining weight.
  4. To intensify the effects of alcohol use.
  5. To “numb out” stress or anxiety.

Fear of rejection ultimately plays a big role in this sort of behavior. The need to feel accepted, good enough, and wanted are powerful motivators of extreme behavior.

Drugorexia takes the well-known habit of using nicotine as an appetite suppressant to a whole new level by abusing prescription and illicit drugs as a means to manage body image.

5 Question Eating Disorder Screen

Eating Disorder TestQuick Eating Disorder Screen

  1. Do you make yourself sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
  2. Do you worry you have lost control over how much you eat?
  3. Have you recently lost more than 15 pounds in a three-month period?
  4. Do you believe yourself to be fat when others say you are too thin?
  5. Would you say that food dominates your life?

Any person answering “yes” to two or more of these five questions is quite likely to have an eating disorder, even if he or she is currently at a “normal” weight range.