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Eating disorders in children and young people

Eating Disorders Awareness Week - From February 27th to 5th March

"Eating disorders are one of the most dangerous and complex mental health issues for anyone to overcome - they should be taken seriously."

Help raise awareness of eating disorders support take a look at our information below and also our 'Eat Well, Feel Well' Campaign to help families find tips and advice for improving their relationships with food to prevent eating disorders.

Take a look at BEAT Eating Disorders Charity new 'Men Get Eating Disorders Too' Campaign.

YouTube video titled 'What to do if you think your child has an eating disorder'

What are the different types of eating disorders?

Anorexia - is where a person is of low weight due to limiting their food intake.

Bulimia - is where a person eats large quantities of food (binges), and to keep off the weight from overeating they vomit, take laxatives, fast, or do a lot of exercising. 

Orthorexia - is where a person has an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.
This is strictly focussed on eating certain foods that they believe is of quality and purity, clean or righteous.
They become consumed with what and how much to eat.
They punish themselves with fasts, diets or exercise when they slip-up with their eating obsession.

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder - is where a person has a lack of interest in food or a sensory aversion to certain foods.

Emotional overeating - is where a person is eating to deal with distressing feelings when they are not pysically hungry. 

More details about the types of eating disorders there are can be found on the Beat Eating Disorders website 

Beat - is a leading charity who supports anyone affected by eating disorders.
Their website lots of support and advice, including this useful leaflet titled 'I'm worried about someone with an eating disorder (PDF Document)

Spotting the signs of eating disorders in children and young people

Spotting the early signs of an eating disorder, such as, anorexia or bulimia, is really important to ensure your child or young person gets help quickly.

"Be aware that eating disorders do not just occur in girls, more boys are getting eating disorders."

Eating disorders, such as, anorexia and bulimia nervosa occur mainly among young people over 12 years old. However anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of their age.

In young girls and boys under 12, the most common type of eating disorder tends to be avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.

The signs of an eating disorder in young children may appear different compared to young people.

For children under 12 you may see:

  • Lack of weight gain or growth rather than weight loss.
  • They eat less, refuse to eat, or make excuses, such as, they no longer like certain foods, not hungry or complain of stomach-aches.
  • They may be restless or hyperactive – move around a lot and can’t sit still.
  • Increased interest in cooking and food-oriented activities.

Download the Beat Charity's - Spot the first signs of an eating disorder poster 

"Eating disorders show differently in each child or young person, these are just some of the more common signs you may see."

As a parent, you know your child and young person better than anyone else so if you have any doubts about their behaviour trust your instincts and seek advice.

Useful tips and advice:

Don't blame yourself - It is important not to blame yourself if your child/young person has developed an eating disorder. An eating disorder is not caused due to bad parenting, it is a mental health condition caused by many biological and environmental factors.

Plan meals and promote healthy eating in your home - Showing a good attitude towards all types of foods within your family home, as well as planned family meals can help protect your child against an eating disorder.

My child has an eating disorder, what should I do?

If you are concerned that your child or young person has an eating disorder, please do not ignore it.

Talking to your child/young person about thoughts and feelings

NHS Choices website - has an advice page on how to start a conversation with your child tiled ‘Talking to children about their feelings’

MindEd-for families - has a resourceful section on 'Talking to My Child' to help you find ways to communicate to children and teenagers at times when they need it. They have this useful eating disorder guide for parents/carers titled 'Top tips to help you support your child' (PDF Document)

National Eating Disorders website - has tips on how to tell a young sibling that their sister/brother has an eating disorder, you can find useful advice on the National Eating Disorders website 

Resources to help children/young people explore emotional wellbeing

Useful websites:

The Source for young people in Suffolk - Has a range of advice around health topics. Visit: www.thesource.me.uk/wellbeing

Childline website - has an eating problems advice page aimed at children.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists website - has a list of recommended 'mental health books for adults, children and teenagers' 

Suffolk Libraries - has an online mental health directory of self-help books suitable for young people and parent/carers available. Visit www.suffolklibraries.co.uk  

Suffolk Parent Hub - can be found on the Suffolk County Council website and is where parents/carers can find various information for support for all sorts of child related ssues. Visit: Suffolk Parent Hub 

MindEd for Families - is a website funded by the Department of Education, specifically to help advise parents and carers on a range of child related issues. They have useful content about eating disorders, which includes how to talk to your child, manage your emotions, and cope at meal times. Visit: MindEd-for families

YoungMinds - Have a useful leaflet for parents on their website titled ‘Eating problems and your child'.

Wellbeing Apps - For helpful Apps that can provide some in-hand support to a young person struggling with an emotional wellbeing issue, please see a list of recommended wellbeing Apps that have been reviewed by young people on The Source website. Visit:The Source - 'if the App fits' page 

Local support groups and organisations who can help

Disordered Eating Support Group in Ipswich - for under 25s

When: The group is run weekly on Wednesday's, from 7pm until 8.30pm

Where: Teenage Mental Health based at 31 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AQ.

This is a free support group to allow you to talk to like minded people, and recieve support from therapists employed by Teenage Mental Health. 

For more details call: 01473 411324 Email: reception@teenagementalhealth.co.uk

Please also find more useful advice on their website TeenageMentalHealth.co.uk

To search for other emotional wellbeing support groups see our list of local support services and organisations for eating disorders (You can filter this list to find what you need).


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