Eating disorders in children: Types, causes, treatment, preventive tips

Updated on Jul 24, 2022 12:56 PM IST

There is a rise in the number of children with eating disorders. Doctor explains the various types of eating disorders, their causes and treatment. Read on to know more and seek timely help if your children have any of the disorders mentioned in the list

Eating disorders in children: Types, causes, treatment, preventive tips (Kampus Production)
Eating disorders in children: Types, causes, treatment, preventive tips (Kampus Production)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

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 the parents to deal with the child having an eating disorder as it can impact them mentally and physically as children with eating disorders tend to experience negative effects on nearly every organ in the body thus, timely treatment is key to helping children with eating disorders.

Types of eating disorders in children

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Vrushali Bichkar, Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Motherhood Hospital in Pune's Lullanagar, listed the various types of eating disorders that children may face:

1. Anorexia Nervosa - This is an eating disorder wherein the weight of the child is below average for their age and height. Children with anorexia have a fear of getting fat or gaining weight. They tend to have a distorted body image, calling themselves “fat” even when very thin. Those with this issue tend to have mental health problems, such as mood disorders, depression, or anxiety disorders. The symptoms of it are bluish discoloration of the fingers due to a lack of oxygen, hair fall, fatigue, insomnia, fainting and the absence of menstruation in teenage girls.

2. Bulimia Nervosa - Here, a child engages in episodes of bingeing during 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 suffering from it have anxiety and self-injurious behaviours. The signs of it are stained teeth, calluses on the backs of the hands or knuckles from self-induced vomiting, frequent weight fluctuations, and an irregular menstrual cycle.

3. Restrictive food intake disorder - If a child has this disorder then he/she is unable to or refuses to eat certain foods based on texture, colour, taste, temperature or even the aroma. The child may have weight loss problems, inadequate growth and nutritional deficiencies. Here, a child may consume only a very narrow range of foods and refuse even those foods if they appear new or different.

4. Binge eating disorder - Having a binge eating disorder means the children will eat large amounts of food but do not attempt to get rid of calories once the food is consumed. Such children can be obese or overweight. They tend to have trouble coping with anger, sadness, worry and stress. They will always feel guilty for eating a lot and not exercising.

Causes:

According to Dr Vrushali Bichkar, genetics, stress and pre-existing psychiatric disorders can make a child prone to having an eating disorder.

Treatment:

“Psychotherapy, nutrition education, medical monitoring and medications in some cases can help children with eating disorders,” suggested Dr Vrushali Bichkar.

Preventive tips:

Dr Vrushali Bichkar advised, “As parents, you need to speak to your child about unhealthy eating habits, encourage the child to eat healthy foods, maintain an optimum weight, exercise daily, sleep well and stay stress-free. Try to help your child to build a healthy body image, do not body shame the child. Do not diet while around the child as he/she will feel that it is OKAY to skip healthy foods or even starve. So, make sure that your child gets all the essential nutrients from the diet.”

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