Food is an essential part of our lives – we need it to live and grow, and a healthy, balanced diet is essential for our physical and emotional wellbeing. Everyone eats differently, and it’s normal if your child sometimes forgets to eat for a day or has an occasional blow out and eats far too much food in one go, or perhaps sometimes goes on a diet. We all have different eating habits but sometimes our relationship with food can become a problem.
It’s not uncommon for young people, particularly adolescents, to be concerned about their appearance, body shape and image. However, trying to control exactly what they eat or how much they eat very strictly, or having urges to eat and then make themselves sick and becoming obsessed with their weight and body shape are possible signs that your child may have an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions when eating behaviour becomes very much disrupted. Young people may begin strict dieting, binge on food secretly, obsessively count calories and vomit after eating (known as purging).
Young people with eating disorders use food to deal with difficult and painful emotions and to help them feel more in control.
Main types of eating disorders
Not eating enough food and/or exercising too much to keep their weight as low as possible and to an unhealthy level. Other people may comment that they are too thin but they think that they are overweight.
Losing control of how much they eat, eating a lot of food in a very short time, called binge eating, then deliberately making themselves sick or taking laxatives to make themselves go to the toilet, restricting what they eat or doing too much exercise to try to stop putting on weight.
Binge Eating Disorder
When they regularly lose control of their eating, eat large portions of food all at once until they feel uncomfortably full, and then often feel upset or guilty.