eating disorders

Does My Child Have An Eating Disorder?

Are you concerned that your child is demonstrating symptoms of an eating disorder? There are many common misconceptions when one evaluates for the presence of an eating disorder such as the person needs to “be skinny,” “be female,” and “be obsessed with food and calorie counting.” Although these can be factors, eating disorders are an equal opportunity affliction and can affect individuals across size, shape, gender, race, and age. Eating disorders are indicative of a person’s unhealthy relationship with food and his or her unrealistic expectations for weight that negatively impacts the individual’s overall quality of life. Although food is a primary component in the diagnosis of eating disorders, the food itself is a maladaptive tool to cope with a range of emotions and can serve as a false method for power and control.

What are some symptoms of eating disorders?eating disorders

The restriction of calories, skipped meals, consumption of large amounts of food, purging, or loss of control when eating can all be manifestations of other underlying socio-emotional concerns. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, “almost 50% of people with an eating disorder meet the criteria for Depression.”  Psychological factors to be aware of when determining the presence of an eating disorder include:

  • Difficulty with mood regulation
  • Reduced impulse control
  • The need for control
  • Perfectionism
  • Parental dieting
  • Need for attention
  • High family expectations
  • Preoccupation with food, weight, body
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Consumes tiny portions of food
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Depression
  • Distorted body image (i.e. thinking they are fat or overweight when it is not the case)

Eating disorder treatment includes individual and group psychotherapy to gain strategies to become aware of and avoid maladaptive behaviors, challenge negative core beliefs about weight, and enhance self-esteem. Additionally, nutritional counseling and medication management for the treatment of the underlying depression or anxiety can be added as needed.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

3 Clues Your Child May Have an Eating Disorder

As a parent, there are countless matters in your child’s life that bring joy, happiness, and excitement. There are eating disordersalso a myriad of matters in your child’s life that can raise concern and cause alarm. In our youth and appearance based culture, one of these alarming matters is eating disorders.  Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia, along with more general disordered eating, are commonly thought of as a problem that affects teen girls.  Teen girls are historically most affected by these disorders, but boys and younger/older children can also develop these issues.  Read on for 3 clues that may indicate your child is on a path toward an eating disorder.

3 Clues Your Child May Have an Eating Disorder:

  1. Your child is constantly looking in the mirror. Do you notice that your child seems obsessed with the mirror? Does your child appear to be scrutinizing her face and body? Children with body image concerns will often spend a lot of time looking in the mirror, which may take away from homework, family time and other necessary or enjoyed activities.
  2. Your child is overly focused on glamorous images from the media. If your child appears to be fixated on certain celebrity icons, and more specifically, the appearance of these icons, she may also be struggling with her own body image.  Some children pull out magazine photos of a current celebrity obsession and create a shrine of the image. While celebrity crazes are common among children and adults alike, if your child seems to idolize the physical appearance rather than the talents of celebrities, it may be a sign that your child is unhappy with her own image. Read more

Signs Your Child May Have an Eating Disorder

There are different types of eating disorders which present in both girls and boys, although more commonly in girls. Anorexia nervosa involves restricting eating to induce weight loss. Bulimia nervosa involves purging, which can be in the form of vomiting and/or excessive exercising. anorexia scaleAnother eating disorder is binge eating without purging, which often results in weight gain. Sometimes, there is a combination of these behaviors occurring.

Eating disorders often develop in response to stress in one’s life. In other words, the child may use the eating disorder as a coping mechanism. In other cases, the child develops an eating disorder when they are striving for an extreme body image. In my experience, people with eating disorders are also usually depressed, using the eating disorder to deal with (or distract themselves from) much bigger problems in their lives. They have a very difficult time coming to terms with and truly letting go of the eating disorder behaviors. For these reasons, eating disorders should be treated by a multidisciplinary team to address the medical, nutritional, and psychological/behavioral issues. This approach promotes health and recovery more effectively than any of these treatments alone.

Here are some signs to look for that may indicate your child is struggling with an eating disorder:

  • Rigid rules about foods your child will or will not eat
  • Unwillingness to eat around others
  • Leaving after meals and going to the bathroom
  • Excuses about not wanting to eat
  • Fatigue, irritability, mood swings, and depression
  • Wearing baggy clothing to conceal weight loss
  • Hair starts thinning and becoming brittle
  • Callouses or scabs on the fingers/knuckles from inducing vomiting by sticking fingers down the throat
  • Finding laxatives in their possession that have not been prescribed for a reason
  • Moving food around the plate, cutting it, playing with it, but not actually eating much of it
  • Excuses about not wanting to eat in your presence (other plans, not feeling well, already ate, etc)
  • Making food for others but not eating any of it themselves
  • A covering of fine, short hair over neck and body
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Drastic weight loss or gain
  • Hiding food
  • Missing periods
  • Eating in the middle of the night
  • Judgments of self, others, or of certain foods as good or bad in terms of eating, weight or body image.
  • Eating large amounts of food but not gaining weight.

Be aware that people with eating disorders usually do not want anyone to know that they are engaging in these behaviors. This is because they may be ashamed and/or not want to give up this coping mechanism. In this way, I have seen eating disorders become almost addictive to those really struggling with recovery. Discuss eating disorder concerns with your child’s pediatrician or schedule a meeting with a professional right away. For more information, refer to the National Eating Disorders Association website: or, the Eating Disorders Resource Center website:

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