Child and Adolescent Therapy: Eating Disorder Red Flags

As parents, we are naturally wired up to protect our children in any way we can. One vital piece of protecting your child is understanding the dangers your child faces in contemporary society. One of those dangers, for both boys and girls, is the development of an eating disorder.

Child and Adolescent Therapy: Eating Disorder Red Flags

How might you know if your child is developing worrisome symptoms? What is the difference between picky eating and an eating disorder? At what point should you consider enlisting the help of a professional to assist you in sorting out normal developmental changes (e.g., asserting independence in food choices) from a potentially lethal psychiatric condition?

Some key red flags to consider are physiological, some are psychological or social, and some are spiritual. If you’re noticing one or more red flags from each of those categories (or one is particularly marked or severe), it’s probably time to schedule an appointment with a professional.

Physiologically, watch for the following:

  • marked weight gain, weight loss, or failure to reach expected developmental gains,
  • chafed knuckles (purging can result in this),
  • excess hair in the shower drains (a symptom of prolonged malnutrition),
  • decreased energy,
  • a marked increase in physical activity for no apparent reason(some kids with bulimia purge via exercise)
  • copious amounts of food mysteriously “disappearing” from the family pantry
  • choosing clothes designed to hide weight loss (e.g., over-sized hoodies, multiple layers even on warm days)

Psychologically, your radar should be set on high if you notice:

  • increased isolating behavior
  • reluctance to eat with the family
  • symptoms of depression (e.g., tired, angry, crying, self-deprecation)
  • obsession with dieting or radical changes in diet
  • evidence of online visits to pro eating disorder websites or searches for phrases such as “thinspiration” or “fitspo” or “bonespo”

The child or adolescent with an eating disorder may have spiritual issues that directly parallel his or her struggle. Though harder to discern, Christian kids with eating disorders often experience an extra dose of inappropriate guilt because they believe the behavior associated with their disorder is sinful. They come to believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with them, or that they’re not really saved since the problem persisted despite the fact that they’ve prayed about it.

Have you noticed some suspicious signs from your son or daughter indicating they could be battling an eating disorder? Don’t wait. Make the call. The sooner you address the issue head on, the sooner you and your child can find the relief you deserve.

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