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Eating Disorders in Children 12 and Under: Learn the Warning Signs

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Early detection and prevention are key to success when it comes to under 12 child nutrition and eating disorders. You may be worried about your child’s health if she has got eating problems. For all such parents, here are some warning signs that should be looked at first. Please continue reading to learn more about it.

Understanding Eating Disorders

The percentage of eating disorders is high among teenagers and children under 12. Eating disorders can affect people of other ages too. The rate of eating disorders is increasing among the girls and boys below the age of 12. The parents should be careful about child nutrition and eating disorders because they can cause serious problems for the child. As a matter of fact, physical growth is an important component of childhood; therefore, not eating properly can affect body growth of the child.

Causes and Risks

Researchers are still working to know the exact causes of child nutrition and eating disorders. So far, they have been able to establish the link of eating disorders with other factors. Such issues often run in families; a person is likely to have an eating disorder if a parent, sibling, or a close relative has an eating abnormality.

A chronic illness (especially insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus) puts a child at higher risk of developing an eating disorder. Furthermore, the children affected by mental problems such as anxiety and depression are also at high risk.

Types of Child Eating Disorders

Here are some common types of eating disorders in children:

  • Pica: In this eating disorder, a child develops a habit of eating non-nutritional or non-food substances. The behavior must fall outside of the child’s expected developmental level to be diagnosed with pica. In this type of eating disorder, the child persistently eats ice, hair, soap, dirt, sand, etc.
  • Anorexia Nervosa: Both boys and girls develop habits that are scientifically known as anorexia nervosa. The children with this abnormality consider themselves as overweight but they are underweight in reality. This belief make them stop eating properly or at all. As a result, they become too weak and thin.
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Most of the times, young children experience avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder. The affected child shows a lack of interest in food or a sensory aversion to certain foods. Due to this condition, a child may stop liking a food once loved due to symptoms caused by that food. Consequently, the child suffers from weight loss or nutritional deficiency.

Other less common eating disorders include the followings:

  • Binge eating
  • Bulimia nervosa

Early Signs of Eating Disorders

There are some signs that indicate the presence of an eating disorder. To cure such problems in young children, early detection is important. It is not always the body image that makes children develop an eating abnormality. Some common early warning signs are:

  • Tantrums
  • Fear of stomach aches
  • Worry about body image
  • Excessive bowel movements
  • Aversion to tastes or textures

If the eating disorder becomes more developed, the following signs can appear:

  • Weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of growth
  • Thinning of hair
  • Delay of puberty
  • Refraining from eating
  • Reducing food portions
  • Hiding or hoarding food
  • Fine hair growth on the body
  • Constipation or digestion problems

Treating Eating Disorders in Young Children

Different components govern the treatment of eating disorders among young children. If the child has lost a significant amount of weight, regaining it is necessary to overcome different health challenges. Family-based treatments and interventions are commonly used because children below 12 age are with a caretaker or parent most of the time.

The child and the parents should not blame each other for the eating disorders. All they need is to consult a professional and help each other overcome the problem. If a child also has child nutrition and eating disorders, the parents should also ask the psychologist to look into them.

If your child is suffering from any of the problems discussed above, see your nutritional, pediatrician, or other mental health professional. If you have any further questions about this topic, please feel free to discuss with your dietitian or psychologist. So book your appointment with the nearest psychologist or dietitian.

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