What is an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are identified through an irregular attitude towards food which can cause any child to change their eating habits and their behaviour towards food. A child with an eating disorder may focus immensely on their body shape such as how they look and how much they weigh which can cause them to make seriously unhealthy choices about how they eat, resulting in a child damaging their overall health. Although some children might not know that they have an eating disorder.
Eating disorders can come in many different forms such as excessive eating or not eating at all, of which can affect many different children throughout the world no matter their age, gender, religion, ability, etc. Some forms of eating disorders include:
- Anorexia Nervosa
This type of eating disorder can have a serious impact on a child’s mental health due to it’s an eating disorder where they keep their body weight as low as possible by limiting the amount of food they consume and occasionally vomiting or over exercising. This type of disorder often develops out of anxiety of the fear of being fat and the wanting to be thin. Many children with this type of disorder sees themselves as being fat when they are not.
This type of eating disorder is more common in teenagers although it can occur in children as young as 7 or 8 years of age. Estimated 90% of young children diagnosed with anorexia are female and the other 10 percent are male, however, these statistics are changings as more males are now being diagnosed.
- Binge Eating Disorder (BED)
This eating disorder is when an child often has episodes of eating large quantities of food within a short period of time due to they lose control. Many children with this disorder eat even when they are not hungry but after they have binge eaten they feel guilty and even disgust. Binges are often planned in advance and can involve an individual buying “special” binge foods.
Children are who are overweight or obese tend to develop this disorder as they find comfort in consuming a large amount of food in a short period of time. Children especially when they are growing tend to eat more food as they find themselves needing more for energy and growth.
- Bulimia Nervosa
Individuals who have bulimia try to control their weight by severely restricting the amount of food they eat, then binge eating and purging the food from their body by making themselves vomit or using laxatives. People with bulimia tend not to seek help or support very readily and can experience swings in their mood as well as feeling anxious and tense.
Often female teenagers will develop this type of eating disorder. Children with bulimia often maintain healthy weight or they can even be overweight but the way they proceed to lose weight is severely unhealthy.
- Night Eating Syndrome (NES)
Night eating syndrome is not the same as binge eating disorder, although individuals with night eating syndrome are often binge eaters. Night eating syndrome is diagnosed when a child eats during the night with full awareness and may be unable to fall asleep again unless he/she eats. An individual may not eat anything that whole day until late in the evening and at night.
Some children with this type of disorder tend to have trouble sleeping which causes them to eat at night as they have no official routine. Children with this disorder tend to eat smaller amounts of food many times during the night almost like snacking constantly.
Causes of eating disorders in children
There are many different factors that can cause eating disorders in children. Some factors include:
- Family history
- Low self esteem
- Peer pressure
- Difficult relationships
- Stressful situations
- Death of someone you care about
- Traumatic experience
Signs and symptoms in children
- Missing meals/ Not eating as much/ Saying their full after a few bites of food
- Complaining of being fat, even though they have a normal weight or are underweight
- Repeatedly weighing themselves and looking at themselves in the mirror (teenagers)
- Making repeated claims that they’ve already eaten, or they’ll shortly be going out to eat somewhere else and avoiding eating at home (teenagers)
- Cooking big or complicated meals for other people, but eating little or none of the food themselves
- Only eating certain low-calorie foods
- Feeling uncomfortable or refusing to eat in public places
- The use of “pro-anorexia” websites (teenagers)
- Sudden or rapid weight loss
- Frequent changes in weight
- Sensitivity to the cold (feeling cold most of the time, even in warm environments)
- Signs of frequent vomiting – swollen cheeks/ jawline or damage to teeth
- Fainting, dizziness
- Fatigue – always feeling tired, unable to perform normal activities
- Social withdrawal or isolation from friends, including avoidance of previously enjoyed activities
- Change in clothing style, such as wearing baggy clothes (usually teenagers)
Importance of placement having this information
It is crucially important that early years setting are provided with information on eating disorders as it allows them to become more aware of a common problem that can affect children of all ages. Through the promotion of more awareness it enables the staff within the setting to look out for any signs and symptoms of this condition so that they can help to support a child as soon as possible so that the child is able to get the necessary support immediately. By providing early years setting with information on eating disorders it enables them to work in partnership with the children and their families through the use of communication, for example: if a child is diagnosed with an eating disorder they can work together to promote self- esteem and self-confidence so the child is hopefully able to overcome this condition through time and support.
Also early years setting will be able to update their policies and procedures so that they included children who have an eating disorder, so that they are still included within the practice but the necessary adaptions are made. Some of the time children often feel that because they have an eating disorder they are different from everyone else and will isolate themselves from others, through educating early years setting it will enable them to prevent this as they will be able to reassure the child and provide them with the attention and care that they need so that they wont feel different from everyone else. Early years setting will be able to get appropriate training so that they are able to respond appropriately when they are faced with a difficult situation. Early years setting need to know if a child has a medical condition as a school nurse will be able to draw up an individual health care plan for pupils with medical conditions.