Could it Be an Eating Disorder? Signs & Symptoms to Look Out for

Could it Be an Eating Disorder? Signs & Symptoms to Look Out for

With the rise in mental health struggles among children and teenagers, we know that families are more concerned than ever about their kids’ wellbeing. Even though eating disorders are increasingly common, the early warning signs are really easy for parents to miss. Here are some of the key reasons they can be so tricky to spot:

  • Eating disorders thrive in secrecy and many of the concerning symptoms – restricting, bingeing, vomiting, and overexercising – may happen privately without anyone noticing at first.
  • Parents who pick up on troubling cues may not get an honest answer if they ask their child a direct question about food – this is because an otherwise trustworthy child, when controlled by an eating disorder, may deceive people about their habits.
  • A teen or tween who might normally share worries with their parents is unlikely to ask for help for an eating disorder.

Another confusing factor is that our culture praises many of the behaviors common to eating disorders, such as limiting portion sizes, choosing lower-calorie options, avoiding caloric drinks, focusing on eating protein, cutting out certain types of foods, and exercising intensely. So what looks initially like a “healthy” behavior could actually be the beginning of an eating disorder.

Parents don’t usually have eating disorders on their radar if their child doesn’t fit the stereotypical image. So it’s important to know the facts:

  • Despite what the media tends to portray, eating disorders don’t have a “look.” Anyone can develop an eating disorder – regardless of gender, race, body size, age, or socioeconomic status.
  • While many people with eating disorders are concerned about their weight or body size, not everyone with an eating disorder has body image concerns.
  • Eating disorders are not choices or lifestyles. They are complex illnesses rooted in biological, psychological, and social risk factors.
  • People can develop eating disorders without any history of mental illness, abuse, or other trauma.

If you’re concerned about changes in your child’s mood or behaviors, check for possible warning signs of an eating disorder. Looking at the big picture – not just their eating – can help you decide whether it’s time to get an evaluation from a health professional. You can use this screener to help you consider various areas of your child’s life that may be affected by disordered eating or an eating disorder.

It can be frightening to acknowledge that someone you love might be struggling with an eating disorder. Parents are often wary of making things worse by drawing attention to their child’s eating, changes in their body, or other warning signs. It makes sense to feel anxious about these topics, but the truth is you can’t make an eating disorder worse by talking about it. Getting a professional evaluation will either ease your mind or help you get the support your family needs. Accessing treatment as soon as possible will help give your child the best chance of a swift and robust recovery. You can be a literal life-saver who takes the first step to get them on the path to healing.

Oona Hanson
Oona Hanson

Family Mentor

About Equip

Equip is a virtual eating disorder treatment program helping families recover from eating disorders at home. Equip’s holistic, data-driven, gold-standard care program is delivered by a team of five care professionals, giving families confidence they’re providing the best opportunity for progress and lasting recovery.

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