No one wants to think of their child being sick. Anytime a disease or disorder attacks our children, parents face the dread, fear and the panic that comes with it. This reaction is common for many illnesses, including eating disorders.
When you watch, seemingly helpless, as your child refuses to eat what was once his favorite, the sense of dread can begin. If you hear him throwing up in the bathroom after he finally ate a meal, fear can creep in. When he then morphs from a thriving, normal child into an empty shadow of who he used to be, the panic moves in.
This is when you think, “My child may have an eating disorder.”
5 Things You Need to Know
Dealing with an eating disorder is not an easy thing; not for the victim or the families and friends that love him. But it is treatable. The first step is knowing what you need to know.
Know where to start. All eating disorders are not created equally. They are not all treatable in the same manner. Treatment generally includes a combination of therapeutic modalities. You start by seeing your family doctor or pediatrician or a mental health therapist or psychologist.
Eating disorders are not a choice. An eating disorder is a mental illness. A child who isn’t eating, who is exercising excessively, who has become obsessed with “eating healthy” and obsesses over specific foods is not doing so by choice. Simply telling them to “knock it off” will not help and could only make it worse.
Keeping it secret. Eating disorders often walk hand-in-hand with isolation, stress, and secrecy. Someone who is struggling may try to maintain the image that everything is OK. Young children, even early school-age children, can face enormous stress. Peer pressure is a powerful thing.
Eating disorders feed off shame and stigma. Someone hiding eating disorders hear the jokes about weight and take them to heart. “Fat-shaming” on social media isn’t funny to someone with an eating disorder. To him, the quips, comments, jokes, and memes confirm that there is no judgment-free zone where they can talk about how they are struggling.
Eating disorders don’t discriminate. A person’s family history, extraordinary grades, the number of social media followers or Twitter trends don’t matter when an eating disorder comes to call. Eating disorders do not select victims based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, cultural affiliations, sexual orientation or political point of view.
Eating disorders can and do affect everyone. They are life-threatening and serious, with immediate action necessary for recovery to begin.