The 3 surprising signs your child is hiding an eating disorder – and what to do | The Sun

THE line between fussy and disordered eating can be a fine one.

But as cases of eating disorders are rising among children, it's more important than ever to know key signs of the life-threatening condition.

Spanish researchers found more than one in five young people (22 per cent) suffer with eating disorders.

Some three in 10 girls have an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.

And one in six boys suffer with a form of the condition.

The team analysed the health data of 63,000 children, between the ages of seven and 18 from 16 different countries.

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Lead author, Dr. Jose Francisco Lopez-Gill of the University of Castilla-La Mancha, in Spain, said the findings were “concerning,” and highlighted the need for prevention strategies.

“Indeed, eating disorders are among the most life-threatening psychiatric problems,” he added.

“People with these conditions die 10 to 20 years younger than the general population," the expert added.

Eating disorders come in many different forms and it's thought that around 1.25million Brits suffer with one.

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Independent experts have previously told The Sun the pandemic could have deepened the eating disorder crisis.

Social media could also be to blame for promoting unachievable body images — contributing to increasing body dissatisfaction among youngsters who are not even overweight.

Meanwhile, some Instagram pages are teaching teenagers how to develop unhealthy relationships with food, using a technique called “meanspo”.

Dr Jose said: "Disordered eating in childhood/adolescence may predict outcomes associated with eating disorders in early adulthood.

"And for this reason, this high proportion found is worrisome and call for urgent action to try to address this situation.”

The latest study was published in JAMA Paediatrics.

Here are 3 surprising signs your child might have an eating disorder

Previously, The Sun spoke to to Dr Joanna Silver, who has been helping people with eating disorders for over a decade.

As the Lead Psychological Therapist at Orri – a day treatment service for those with an eating disorder – she knows all the classic signs someone is either hiding one an eating disorder, or in denial about one.

Speaking to The Sun, Dr Joanna said: “Unfortunately, these days eating disorders can start very young. Typically they start in teenage years, but it’s never too early to look out for it.”

Here are some subtle tell-tale signs the expert believed all parents should know.

1. Telling you they "had a big lung"

Dr Joanna said children and teens may justify eating less food or avoid it by telling their parents they “had a big lunch”, or “are eating out with friends later” – which they are not.

2. Asking you where you are going for dinner

Sometimes children as this so they can look up the menu beforehand and work out what foods have the least calories, she explained.

3. A general change in behaviour

She said: “They may seem quieter and say less in general, and become more withdrawn or secretive. 

“Isolation serves a purpose to keep the eating disorder from being un-challenged.

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A person with an eating disorder may become increasingly anxious, depressed or have a rapidly changing mood, Dr Joanna said.

“They may become angry or aggressive as a means of defending the eating disorder from challenge. "

How to help a child with an eating disorder

If your child is being treated for an eating disorder, their treatment team will play a big part in their recovery.

But do not underestimate the importance of your love and support.

It may help to:

  • learn as much as possible about eating disorders, so you understand what you're dealing with
  • keep telling them that you love them and will always be there for them
  • make them aware of the professional help available
  • suggest activities they could do that do not involve food, such as hobbies and spending time with friends
  • ask them what you can do to help
  • try to be honest about your own feelings, as this will encourage them to do the same
  • be a good role model by eating a balanced diet and doing a healthy amount of exercise
  • try to build their confidence, for example, praise them for being thoughtful or congratulate them on something they've done

Source: NHS

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