Childhood and Adolescent Eating Disorders
Anorexia and bulimia are the two most common child and adolescent eating disorders. These are serious, life-threatening disorders with a wide range of physical and psychiatric components. Anorexia is basically the deliberate and excessive limiting of one's food intake. One becomes obsessed with not eating or only eating very small non-fattening portions. Bulimia is also an obsession with food however the Bulimic will usually not starve themselves as much as the anorexic but with deliberately vomit after eating to remove the food from the body.
Obliviously, eating disorders are characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior, they can lead to sickness, delays in physical and mental growth, problems with ones teeth, and can eventually lead to setbacks in many other important areas of life. These eating disorders can also lead to death in more severe cases. These are serious, life-threatening disorders that typically have a psychological cause. For instance, eating disorder and sexual abuse are closely linked. In fact in some cases the psychological reason behind the extreme limiting of food intake was to prevent or severely limit sexual development by limiting the adolescent's menstruation or the development of full sized breasts. Also, the opposite extreme can be the case in that the child does not fear sexuality but is obsessed with sexuality and appearing attractive and perfect in every way which includes being very thin. Other childhood trauma can also result in potential eating disorders. In addition, the values of this society can play a substantial role. Children learn that being popular or successful and well liked is much easier if you are thin.
Parenting can also play a possible role in many of these situations. Research shows that parents who are enmeshed, overprotective, too rigid, overly involved in their children's lives to the point of not allowing them to develop their own individuality, autonomy, or sense of who they are outside of their parent's control can contribute to eating disorders. Also, parents who lean on their children for emotional support rather then the child leaning on the parent or parents who involve their children in their own adult conflicts can also set their child up to have more risk of developing an eating disorder. In addition, parents who have issues with eating or weight can sometimes pass these issues to their child by the way the parent acts, the views they express, or the things they say in front of the child. This is not meant to blame the parents. Most parents are doing the best they can and have no idea that this could result from certain parenting behaviors. It is only brought up in order demonstrate the complexity of these issues and how this issue sometimes is a family issue more then a child issue.
If you believe your child may have an eating disorder it is very important that you seek out a therapist who specializes in working with childhood and adolescent eating disorders to get an assessment done. The Counseling Corner has professional therapists who specialize in treating childhood and adolescent eating disorders. However, in addition to contacting us, it is important to let the child's physician know about your concerns.