Eating disorders are serious medical conditions that involve major changes and disturbances in eating habits. Eating disorders are becoming increasingly common and according to the National Eating Disorders Association, around 35% of young girls engage in dieting, purging, or take dieting pills to lose weight.
There are three types of eating disorders:
- Anorexia – an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with food and losing weight and a distorted perception of body image.
- Bulimia – an eating disorder that involves binge eating and then purging by vomiting or using laxatives or diet pills to prevent weight gain.
- Binge eating disorder – an eating disorder characterized by the consumption of large amounts of food and binge eating, without the subsequent purging.
What are the Common Signs of an Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders can have severe health implications so it’s important as a parent that you educate yourself on the signs and symptoms and identify possible warning signs early on.
Some of the warning signs include:Drastic weight loss or extremely low weight
- Drastic weight loss or extremely low weight
- Intense fear of gaining weight, even if underweight
- Distorted image or perception of body and negative thoughts
- Obsession with restricting calorie intake, weight and dieting
- Vomiting or purging after meals, or abuse of laxatives or diet pills
- Excessive exercise regime
- Secret eating or avoiding situations that involve food
- Withdrawal from friends, family or social activities
- Changes in menstrual cycle
What Do I Do if I Think My Daughter Has an Eating Disorder?
Your immediate focus should be your daughter’s health, initiating an open discussion about the issue and seeking help from a healthcare professional to gain understanding and get a proper diagnosis.
How Do I Approach the Issue?
- Seek advice. It’s important that you seek advice from a healthcare profession to develop an understanding of eating disorders to help you to approach the issue with your daughter. The more you know about eating disorders, the better you will be able to understand what she is going through and how she is feeling.
- Ask open questions. Instead of accusing your daughter of having an eating disorder, ask questions such as “Is there a reason why you’re not eating as much lately”, to promote an open, honest conversation.
- Reinforce your support. Your daughter needs to know that she has your support and that you are concerned about her health, rather than angry or disappointed. Your daughter will be less likely to talk to you if she feels she will get into trouble, so emphasize that you want to help her get through this.
Why Do People Develop Eating Disorders?
You shouldn’t blame yourself if your child develops an eating disorder. Eating disorders are complicated mental illnesses that can stem from various factors. Often, people use food to deal with their emotions, and restricting food is a way to regain control of their life. It’s important to recognize the warning signs and support your child rather than placing blame or feeling at fault.
Are There Health Concerns Associated with Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are very serious illnesses and can lead to many health complications. If left untreated, eating disorders can get severely out of control and can lead to life-threatening health problems, heart disease, kidney failure and in worst cases, fatality.
Recognizing an eating disorder is the first stage towards the recovery process. As a parent, you need to provide your daughter with love and support so that you can help her in the road to recovery.
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