of Eating Disorders
By Dr. Sally Robinson and Dr. Keith Bly
one doubts that kids grow up fast these days, so it shouldn't be
a surprise that studies of children as young as third or fourth
grade find the majority of girls have tried dieting. And some of
those girls are likely to develop an eating disorder.
parents of preteens already have plenty to worry about, it's wise
to keep an eye out for eating disorders. But some popular ideas
about such disorders are inaccurate, and parents need good information
to spot trouble.
basic is understanding the common eating disorders -anorexia and
bulimia- and realizing that they aren't mutually exclusive. Many
think that anorexics won't eat at all, while bulimics will eat,
but then they'll vomit or use laxatives to avoid digesting the food.
Though the two conditions differ, many youngsters experience symptoms
of both. They won't eat, and they're using laxatives or vomiting.
widespread misconception pictures typical eating-disorder patients
as perfect girls. They are attractive teens, popular and eager to
please, often under pressure to excel at school, and in body-conscious
sports such as gymnastics or figure skating.
the fact is that girls who develop eating disorders are just as
likely to be overweight and genuinely in need of dieting as they
are to be at a healthy weight. Additionally, eating disorders are
on the rise among boysæespecially those who wrestle, play
football or participate in other sports in which weight is an important
clear trend is that patients with eating disorders are younger and
younger. Typically, eating disorders start innocently enough when
a child wants to drop a little weight. The youngster is thrilled
to see that he or she can lose weight. But then the diet starts
to spin out of control.
how do parents figure out there's a problem? It can be extremely
difficult because these kids are good at hiding their bodies. Sometimes
parents will notice when hugging the child that he or she has lost
a lot of weight. A parent may begin to see that the child never
has time for meals or much of an appetite. He or she will become
more susceptible to colds and other infections.
trouble becomes apparent, it's best to consult a pediatrician and
perhaps a mental health worker. If the youngster is already weak,
outpatient treatment may not be enough. Some children with eating
disorders have to be hospitalized, maybe with intravenous feeding
to get calories in them.
in mind that an eating disorder isn't impossible to beat. These
kids -and often their families- need a lot of help. But the earlier
treatment is started, the easier it is to succeed.
Sally Robinson is Professor of Pediatrics, and Dr. Keith Bly is
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical
Branch at Galveston Children's Hospital. For more information, visit:
information presented on this site is intended solely as a general
educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for
any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional
advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar
with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician
or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical
condition and before starting any new treatment.