Eating disorders are common and can affect anyone. It’s not known exactly why people develop an eating disorder, but it’s thought that there may be a mix of contributing factors, including environment, genetics and psychological factors. Eating disorders often happen when another area of the young person’s life maybe doesn’t feel right or is out of control, or if they are experiencing a lot of worry or stress. They might feel that being able to control how much or what they eat gives them back a feeling of control and order in their life.
Some possible causes might be:
- Having a family history of eating disorders
- Being criticised and/or bullied for their body shape and/or weight
- Pressure to be slim i.e. dancers and athletes
- Obsessive personality, being a perfectionist
- Anxiety or low mood
- Experiences such as trauma or abuse
- Loss of someone close
- Difficult relationships with family/friends
- Stressful situations
- Problems at school
Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Your child may worry excessively about their body shape, how they look and how much they weigh, thinking they are too fat and have a fear of gaining weight.
- They start strict dieting, counting calories obsessively, avoiding food they think is fattening and eating only low calorie foods.
- They may try and avoid social situations that involve eating food around others, such as meal times at home or eating out with their friends or family.
- They may be secretive or start lying about what they have eaten.
- They are doing a lot more exercise than they normally would and may get upset if something stops them from exercising.
- They may disappear to the toilet soon after eating.
- They may eat large amounts of food quickly when they are not really hungry and then feel uncomfortably full afterwards.
- Their mood may change and they appear to be more anxious or irritable than normal.