Most eating disorders go undiagnosed because they are never diagnosed because they are never noticed until someone or something breaks and that is very dangerous. It is true that girls are the most affected by eating disorders making up at least 90% of the total number of victims of anorexia and bulimia. Boys Are not spared though and many engage in compulsive exercise and purging to try and keep what they believe to be a fit body shape but it comes at the cost of their physical and mental wellbeing. For your children including kids to grow into healthy adults, they need to eat proper quality and quantities of food and love their bodies while doing it which is why these 10 signs of eating disorders should be addressed as early as possible.
Sneaking Off After a Meal
This one is difficult to miss and it is very common with teens that do purging after a meal. You don’t have to worry about it unless it becomes frequent in which case you will know that something is wrong. Sometimes, purging teens will pick up a habit of isolating themselves when eating so that you won’t notice when they finally sneak off to purge. They may eat their meals properly and even do some overeating on the side and then disappear afterwards to stick fingers down their throats. You don’t have to be sneaky about solving it though, just have an open conversation and get them professional help when necessary.
Overall Negative Comments About Body Image
Loving and accepting one’s appearance is vital for good mental health especially for teens which is why you should never overlook this. A simple statement regarding weight or body shape may evoke a reaction much bigger than what you expected and that could tell you what is going on with a teenager. They become very sensitive about their appearance and tend to comment negatively about their body image before they start “mitigating” by not eating enough and purging. Once you notice a tendency of overreaction towards comments relating to body image, you should observe a teenager’s eating habits closely and give advice when possible.
Sudden Obsession with Food and Calories
It starts with simple questions about which foods contain more calories and which ones are most likely to cause weight gain. You may also notice a teenager spending more time than usual online searching about the calorie content of foods and applying the same at the table. Once you notice your child eating a lot less of food type or another and they seem to be keener on calorie content than they normally would be, you should start counselling them to prevent escalation.
Sometimes, eating disorders won’t show up at your table but off it. Your child may pick up a strange habit of eating very little at the table and then sneaking off; Not to purge but to eat. Many end up buying extra snacks or raiding your fridge and eating unhealthy quantities of food. Another common form of this type of disorder can be seen in teens who start eating lots of snacks and other food when frustrated. You can catch this early when you notice leftover snacks and packages in their room, school bag or pockets when washing.
Sudden Fear of Being Seen While Eating
It is a good thing to be able to sit with your child and watch them eat with the rest of the family. Most adolescents get easily irritable and it may seem normal when they start taking food and go to eat alone or just not fancy eating while everyone is watching anymore. It is hard to see whether they are eating too little or too much when you can’t see them eating anymore which is why it is so hard to diagnose this sort of behaviour. You may have to wait until physical symptoms appear before taking any steps. You can be open about it and talk to the child before it gets out of hand though.
Appearance Of Lanugo
Lanugo is the fine film of downy hair that you see on some people and it is not as natural as you may assume. People who have stayed for a long time without eating anything or not eating enough tend to grow this hair. It is a way for the body to protect itself against cold because nutritional sources are not sufficient. It is most common in the face, neck and back for teens when they are suffering from anorexia or bulimia. You may also notice a bony backbone and ribs and sunken cheeks as lanugo grows.
A Dry Skin
Purging and use of laxatives to get rid of food from the body doesn’t just remove food, it also dehydrates the body and continuous repetition of these harmful tricks take a toll on the body. The first victim of bulimia and anorexia is always the skin which when left undernourished will look dry and cracked. You may notice that your child’s skin of constantly dry and blotched with dry mouth and cracked lips even after eating.
Unexplained Frequent Constipation and Abdominal Issues
Most early symptoms of eating disorders in teens go unnoticed because they hide it until they just can’t hide it anymore and pain is one of the things they can’t hide. When your child complains about abdominal pain, you should seek medical attention and get a proper diagnosis but that shouldn’t be something that happens every day. When your child complains of non-stop abdominal issues including bowel issues, constipation and pain despite taking proper medication, you should look at what they eat and how they behave while and after eating.
Sudden Change in Food Preference
No one wakes up and their favourite food changes without an explanation, especially teens and young adults. Eating rituals is one of the most common symptoms of bot anorexia and orthorexia and it can get serious if you don’t catch it early enough. You may notice children preferring to eat only a certain type of food again and again mostly accompanied with praises of how it doesn’t cause weight gain.
Sudden Uptake of Laxatives and Diuretics
Laxatives and diuretics are not things you take lightly. They leave children dehydrated and the chemicals may affect other aspects of their development. If you notice that your child has started using them with no medical explanation, you should seek professional help immediately. The same goes for excessive exercising or sudden irritability at mealtime that always ends in them eating too little food or not eating at all.