Eating Disorder Help
Are you worried about a child in your life? Learn more about eating disorder signs and symptoms and what to do if you’re concerned.
Signs & Symptoms of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are serious, complex illnesses that can cause severe harm to those affected. That’s why it’s so important to be on the lookout for warning signs in the kids in your life.
Common signs and symptoms of an eating disorder include:
- Engaging in food restriction. Sometimes this shows up as suddenly becoming vegan or vegetarian. Or cutting out all carbs or all sugar “for health reasons.”
- Obsessive or extreme eating behaviors.
- Obsessive attention paid to their body or weight –more talking about their body or their weight or shape. Checking their body in the mirror.
- Notable weight change, wearing larger clothing that hides their body. IMPORTANT: many times an eating disorder does not result in weight change.
- Frequent trips to the bathroom, especially after meals.
- Excessive exercise or a compulsive need to exercise “for health”.
- Feeling weak or tired or sleeping more than usual.
- Notable change in behavior, as though something is just “off.”
What to Do if You Suspect an Eating Disorder
If you are concerned that a child or teen in your life is struggling with disordered thinking or eating, trust your gut and seek help.
If you are a parent or guardian:
- Take warning signs seriously and trust your gut.
- Make an appointment with your child’s doctor. Before the visit, confirm their experience screening and intervening in disordered eating / eating disorders. If they do not, or if you suspect they could use more information, ask them to visit www.NCEED.org to learn more about screening and intervening appropriately. Alternatively, as around for a pediatric provider who has experience with these health issues.
- Before the doctor’s appointment, talk with your child about your concerns. Start by taking time to write down the objective (non-feeling) behaviors you are seeing. Next, share those facts with your child. Let them know that you are not an expert in in these issues, but that, together, you will visit with someone who is an expert that can help. They may get defensive or upset with you (which usually indicates you are doing the right thing), but know that you are doing the right thing by trusting your gut and seeking help.
- Before the appointment with your doctor, if you will not be in the room with your child during the appointment, be sure to communicate with the doctor about the objective behaviors you have seen (i.e. the list you made prior to talking with your child).
- If appropriate, pursue specialty treatment options. This may include working with your child’s Primary Care Provider, a therapist, or pursuing in-patient treatment options.
Get Support Now
You are not alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, The National Alliance for Eating Disorder helpline can be reached at 866-662-1235 in the US. The helpline is run by clinicians and offers emotional support for individuals and their family, as well as referrals for all levels of eating disorders.
There are many other organizations in the United States and globally doing valuable work to prevent, treat, provide support for, and advocate for eating disorders. Below is a simple list to get you started if you’re looking for additional resources.
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
A nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders.
Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC)
A coalition of organizations that advance the recognition of eating disorders as a public health priority. The EDC advocates to influence federal policy and to achieve full enactment of legislation.
Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T)
An international organization of and for caregivers of eating disorder patients. F.E.A.S.T. provides information and mutual support for families.