Asked by Julie, Inkom, Idaho
Is there a way to diagnose eating disorders in small children? When should a parent be concerned?
Living Well Expert
Dr. Jennifer Shu
Children's Medical Group
Eating disorders are most common in teenagers and young adults, however, they can also occur in younger children. To help answer your question, I consulted Sari Fine Shepphird, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of "100 Questions and Answers about Anorexia Nervosa."
Dr. Shepphird reports that although the majority of new cases of anorexia are diagnosed between the ages of 13 and 18, about 10 percent of patients with eating disorders show an onset of their symptoms before age 10, and eating disorders have been reported in children as young as 5. Recent studies show that it is increasingly common for young children to be on a diet and to express a fear of gaining weight and that even young kids may engage in unhealthy and potentially harmful diet behaviors such as excessive exercise, fasting and making themselves throw up.
While an otherwise healthy child's "picky eating" is likely just a phase that will go away, there are many signs that can signal a potential concern. These include the unhealthy behaviors listed above as well as unexpected changes in weight, a preoccupation with one's weight and "feeling fat," hoarding food and persistent refusal of all but a few types of food.
Certain feeding disorders of early childhood can look very similar to eating disorders, so it is essential to get an accurate diagnosis. Common feeding disorders in children according to Dr. Shepphird include pica (eating non-nutritive substances such as dirt, clay, paper or chalk), rumination disorder (regurgitating partially digested food before re-chewing the food or spitting it out), and failure to thrive (not growing and gaining weight at the rate expected for a child's age).
Parents who are concerned about nutrition, growth or a possible eating disorder in their child should consult with their pediatrician for an evaluation and further information or treatment if necessary.
|Most Viewed||Most Emailed|
CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. You are solely responsible for your own comments, the consequences of posting those comments, and the consequences of any reliance by you on the comments of others. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.
The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.