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Health Information For Parents
Eating disorders are problems with the way people eat. They can harm a person’s health, emotions, and relationships. There are several types of eating disorders.
Common types of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).
Anorexia. People with anorexia:
People with anorexia are very strict about what and how much they will eat. They may think about food or calories almost all the time.
To lose weight, some people with anorexia fast or exercise too much. Others may use laxatives, diuretics (water pills), or enemas.
Bulimia. People with bulimia:
People with bulimia eat much more (during a set period of time) than most people would. If a person regularly binges and purges, it may be a sign of bulimia. Unlike people with anorexia who are very low weight, people with bulimia may be thin, average weight, or overweight. People with bulimia often hide their eating and purging from others.
Binge eating. People with binge eating disorder:
Many people with binge eating disorder eat faster than normal. They may eat alone so others don’t see how much they are eating. Unlike people with bulimia, those with binge eating disorder do not make themselves throw up, use laxatives, or exercise a lot to make up for binge eating. If a person binge eats at least once a week for 3 months, it may be a sign of binge eating disorder.
ARFID. People with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID):
People with ARFID don’t eat because they are turned off by the smell, taste, texture, or color of food. They may be afraid that they will choke or vomit. They don’t have anorexia, bulimia, or another medical problem that would explain their eating behaviors.
Eating disorders can cause serious problems throughout the body.
Anorexia can lead to health problems caused by undernutrition and low body weight, such as:
People with anorexia may find it hard to focus and have trouble remembering things. Mood changes and emotional problems include:
Bulimia can lead to health problems caused by vomiting, laxatives, and diuretics, such as:
People with bulimia may have these emotional problems:
Binge eating can lead to weight-related health problems, such as:
People with binge eating disorder may:
ARFID may lead to health problems that stem from poor nutrition, similar to anorexia. People with ARFID may:
People with ARFID are more likely to have:
There’s no single cause for eating disorders. Genes, environment, and stressful events all play a role. Some things can increase a person’s chance of having an eating disorder, such as:
Health care providers and mental health professionals diagnose eating disorders based on history, symptoms, thought patterns, eating behaviors, and an exam.
The doctor will check weight and height and compare these to previous measurements on growth charts. The doctor may order tests to see if there is another reason for the eating problems and to check for problems caused by the eating disorder.
Families may notice early warning signs such as:
If you are concerned your child may have an eating disorder, talk to your health care provider.
Eating disorders are best treated by a team that includes a doctor, dietitian, and therapist. Treatment includes nutrition counseling, medical care, and talk therapy (individual, group, and family therapy). The doctor might prescribe medicine to treat binge eating, anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns.
The details of the treatment depend on the type of eating disorder and how severe it is. Some people are hospitalized because of extreme weight loss and medical complications.
If you think your child has an eating disorder:
Get help early. When an eating disorder is caught early, a person has a better chance of recovery. Make an appointment with your child’s doctor or an eating disorders specialist.
Talk to your child about your concerns. Be calm, direct, and caring. Let them know you will help. Ask them to tell you what it’s like for them.
Go to all appointments. Treatment takes time and effort. Work with the care team to get the help your child needs. Ask questions any time you have them.
Be patient and supportive. Learn what you can do to help your child. Try to keep your relationship with your child strong and positive. Make time to listen, talk, and do things that you both enjoy.
All kids have worries and doubts. But some have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in which their worries compel them to behave in certain ways over and over again. OCD can get better with the right attention and care.
For teens, concerns about appearances often take center stage. But if these concerns are all-consuming, cause extreme distress, and keep them from doing and thinking about other things, it may be a sign of a condition called body dysmorphic disorder.
For some people, worries about appearance become extreme and upsetting, interfering with their lives, a condition called body dysmorphic disorder.
Even though exercise has many positive benefits, too much can be harmful. Teens who exercise compulsively are at risk for both physical and psychological problems.
We’ve all eaten a whole bag of chips out of boredom or while cramming for a big test. Learn more about emotional eating, and how to manage it, in this article for teens.
Binge eating is a type of eating disorder. This article for teens explains what it is, how to recognize it, and how to get help.
Kids who eat unusually large amounts of food – and feel guilty or secretive about it – could be struggling with binge eating disorder.
It’s normal to wish you could change something about your body. Find out more about these feelings in this article for kids.
When your body changes, so can your image of yourself. Find out how your body image affects your self-esteem and what you can do.
A healthy and positive body image means liking your body, appreciating it, and feeling grateful for its qualities and capabilities. Parents can help kids develop a healthy body image.
Eating disorders are so common in America that 1 or 2 out of every 100 students will struggle with one. Find out more.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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