Early Onset Eating Disorders

Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating disorder are affecting ever younger populations of individuals. Recent studies from around the world indicate a steady increase in the early onset of eating disorders with some children as young as six years old being hospitalized following bouts of binging and purging, laxative abuse and general refusal to eat.

Children with Eating DisordersEating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating disorder are affecting ever younger populations of individuals.  Recent studies from around the world indicate a steady increase in the early onset of eating disorders with some children as young as six years old being hospitalized following bouts of binging and purging, laxative abuse and general refusal to eat.

Because many treatment programs are designed to address the issues of adolescents, the very young afflicted with eating disorder are in danger of not receiving proper care for their disorder in a timely fashion.  And since the sooner an eating disorder is diagnosed and treated the better the chance of lasting recovery, it is imperative that parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals take measures to identify the warning signs of these disorders in the very young.

Parent Education: Recognize Eating Disorder Behavior Traits in Children

In addition becoming educated about eating disorders and indicative behavioral traits, below are a few pointers that may help parents or guardians in identify indicators of potential eating disorders:

  1. Eat together as a family.  By becoming familiar with a young person’s dining behavior one is able to determine significant variation in eating habits.
  2. Study the mood and attitude of your child.  If he or she is demonstrable emotionally around mealtimes or at the mention of food this could indicate an underlying psychological issue regarding food.
  3. Look out for a drastic change in habit or sudden alteration in eating behavior.  The longer the duration of the altered behavior the more important it is to remain vigilant.
  4. Children who consume large quantities of food, especially in response to anxiety make be at risk of developing a compulsive overeating disorder.  This is especially true if they appear to be unaware of just how much they are eating or seem to graze without enjoyment.
  5. Pay attention to the words and phrases your child uses regarding food, its consumption and how they feel about their bodies.  Take heed if they refer to dieting, counting calories or describe themselves as fat.  This sort of language is a very clear warning sign of behavior that can lead to a serious eating disorder.

None of the above suggestions is provided as a means to diagnosis.  Rather these are intended as strategies to allow parents and guardians to develop awareness and respond should you suspect your child is in danger of developing an eating disorder.  Always, seek the guidance of a mental health professional who will be able to address your child’s specific needs and circumstances.

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

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