Eating disorders mean problems with the way a child eats and according to health experts, they are more common in young children and can be seen in any age group. It can be stressful for parents to care for a child with an eating disorder, as it can affect them mentally and physically, as children with eating disorders tend to experience negative on almost every organ of the body. Prompt treatment is therefore essential to help children. with eating disorders.
Types of Eating Disorders in Children
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr. Vrushali Bichkar, Consultant Pediatrician and Neonatologist at Lullanagar Maternity Hospital in Pune, listed the different types of eating disorders that children can face:
1. Anorexia Nervosa – This is an eating disorder in which the child’s weight is below average for their age and height. Children with anorexia are afraid of getting fat or gaining weight. They tend to have a distorted body image, calling themselves “fat” even when very thin. People with this problem tend to have mental health issues, such as mood disorders, depression, or anxiety disorders. Symptoms are bluish discoloration of the fingers due to lack of oxygen, hair loss, fatigue, insomnia, fainting and absence of menstruation in adolescent girls.
2. Bulimia Nervosa – Here, a child engages in bulimic episodes in which he or she eats too much food and then purges or tries to get rid of the extra calories. This means self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise, such as running on a treadmill for hours. Those who suffer from it have behaviors of anxiety and self-harm. Signs are stained teeth, calluses on the backs of hands or knuckles due to self-induced vomiting, frequent weight fluctuations and an irregular menstrual cycle.
3. Restrictive Food Intake Disorder – If a child has this disorder, they are unable or unwilling to eat certain foods based on texture, color, taste, temperature, or even aroma. The child may have problems with weight loss, inadequate growth, and nutritional deficiencies. Here, a child may only eat a very narrow range of foods and refuse even those foods if they seem new or different.
4. Binge eating disorder – Having binge eating disorder means children will eat large amounts of food, but won’t try to get rid of calories once the food is consumed. These children may be obese or overweight. They tend to have difficulty coping with anger, sadness, worry, and stress. They will always feel guilty for eating too much and not exercising.
According to Dr. Vrushali Bichkar, genetics, stress, and pre-existing psychiatric disorders can make a child susceptible to an eating disorder.
“Psychotherapy, nutrition education, medical monitoring and medication in some cases can help children with eating disorders,” suggested Dr. Vrushali Bichkar.
Dr Vrushali Bichkar advised, “As parents, you need to talk to your child about unhealthy eating habits, encourage them to eat healthy foods, maintain optimum weight, exercise daily, sleep well and not to stress. Try to help your child build a healthy body image, don’t shame the child. Do not diet in the presence of the child, because he will feel that it is OK to skip healthy foods or even starve. So make sure your child is getting all the essential nutrients from their diet.