10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders are frightening illnesses for parents and loved ones.  Here are 10 truths every parent should know even if you think your child will not develop an eating problem.  Knowing the signs and symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options can help with early intervention and getting your child the help they need or perhaps help a friend whose child is struggling.

1. Parents do not cause eating disorders, and children do not choose to have an eating disorder.  Parents often feel guilt, fear, and stigma when their child develops an eating problem.

2. Disordered eating occurs on a spectrum. Early intervention is essential to recovery, don’t wait to seek a professional assessment if you suspect your child has eating difficulties.  Full recovery is possible, and eating disorder specialists offer targeted treatments.

3. Eating disorders often begin with positive intentions to be healthy, increase athletic performance, or improve self-worth by changing body size, but in time engulf the individual with disordered thoughts and behaviors.

4. Families can be potent allies in the recovery process but often need additional support, knowledge, and skills to feel empowered to help their child recover.

5. The most common eating disorders are binge eating, bulimia, and disordered eating that does not meet exact diagnostic criteria but is still clinically significant.

6. Eating disorders run in families. Having a relative with an eating disorder increases risk.

7. Eating disorders have serious medical consequences, some life-threatening, directly resulting from starvation, malnutrition, bingeing, purging, or laxative abuse.

8. The onset of most eating disorders occurs in adolescence. Eating disorders affect all genders.

9. The onset of most eating disorders occurs in adolescence. Eating disorders affect all genders.

10. The cause of eating disorders is unknown. Current understanding points to a multifaceted etiology including genetics, neurobiology, temperament, life experiences, and sociocultural influences.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help or consultation if you suspect a loved one might be developing or struggling with disordered eating, body image dissatisfaction, or compulsive exercise.  Comprehensive treatment includes nutritional rehabilitation and stabilization, psychological assessment and counseling, medical monitoring, and family therapy, education and support.  Help is available!