The dailymail has an interesting article about children as young as six being diagnosed with eating disorders. The shock findings come from the first national study into eating disorders in those under the age of 13.
The condition is more severe in young children as anorexia can permanently stunt growth, affect future fertility and damage bones.
Over a 13-month period from March 2005, 206 preteenage children across Britain and Ireland were newly diagnosed with serious disorders ranging from bulimia and anorexia to binge eating.
Half were admitted to hospitals for in-patient treatment. Some were showing symptoms of starvation such as a low temperature and a slow heart rate, while 10 per cent had to be fed by tube.
The youngest child diagnosed with an eating disorder in that period was just six years old and was showing signs of anorexia. An eight-year-old girl was the youngest to be newly diagnosed with anorexia.
Becoming a vegetarian was a first step as well as cutting out anything perceived as being fattening such as chocolate, sweets and puddings. Half of the girls in the study also exercised excessively to keep their weight down.
The good news is that nearly 60 per cent of the children have since improved.
Experts said younger children tend to be more body aware and take a greater interest in fashion and celebrity culture. They are also likely to be influenced by parents on diets and exercising excessively. Research earlier this year showed anorexia may have a genetic link.
Parents are warned that young children with eating disorders can become ill very quickly but it can still be months before the signs are picked up.
Tips for Parents:
- The key is recognizing a change in the child’s level of satisfaction with themselves and their body (in weight, size or shape), change in self acceptance or self-view or a change in social interaction. The main warning sign is to look for change. Not all changes your child will go through are concerning or negative. However, it is important to notice change when it is persistently negative towards the child’s own looks, size, and self.
- Encourage your child to eat healthy, regularly and have a variety of foods. You can promote needed changes in menu choices but not dieting.
- Parents can be modeling healthy eating and regular physical activity while setting expectations of valuing people for their internal worth rather than for their physical appearance. It is not about parents saying or not saying something, it is more about parents leading by example.
When I was six I wasn’t worrying about my weight. I worried about about my little brother getting more attention than me and what I was do at recess the next day. The world has definitely changed for young people!