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5 Warning Signs of Eating Disorders

5 Eating Disorder Warning SignsRecent studies indicate that the number of individuals being diagnosed with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia or compulsive overeating disorder is on the rise. Researchers compiling eating disorder data from numerous sources attempt to identify potential causes for the growing incidences of this complex emotional disorder. However, analysis of the information can prove quite difficult given that eating disorders arise due to factors that comprise (amongst other components) genetics, environment, societal influences and emotional triggers.

Diagnosing Eating Disorders

Ultimately, researchers interpret the collected data and present a generalized picture that depicts statistical trends in diagnosed eating disorders. Since many individuals struggling with eating disorders are never properly diagnosed and do not receive care, studies will never tell the full story. Nonetheless, in the last few years, a recurring finding of numerous studies is the fact that younger-and-younger individuals are being diagnosed with eating disorders. Pre-adolescents are typically rather impressionable and therefore quite vulnerable to influences that can initiate eating disordered behavior, so it is crucial that parents, siblings, teachers and guardians become familiar with common warning signs.

Common Eating Disorder Warning Signs

  1. Change in Behavior. Anxiety is a common component for individuals suffering with eating disorders. Children who exhibit anxiety will often develop eating disorders when they get older so it is important that such behavior is not dismissed as youthful moodiness. If a child demonstrates histrionic behavior or extreme anxiety, pay attention and seek professional counseling before the emotional turmoil escalates into a full-blown emotional disorder.
  2. Negative Change in Weight. As children grow they are expected to gain weight and your pediatrician should be able to determine whether your child is at a healthy weight. However, be careful to not fall prey to the rigid dogma of “thinner is better.” Often, incipient anorexic behavior can be missed at the annual check-up. If you believe your child may be at risk, let your pediatrician know and beware that a weight loss of five or more pounds could signal a potential medical or emotional issue.
  3. Increase in Exercise. With the busy schedules that many children maintain it can be a tough call as to what is excessive exercise. Generally, if your child is adding more to his or her already packed exercise regimen, outside of team sports or after-school activities, he or she may be developing an obsessive fixation to exercise. This is common among eating disordered individual and warrants concern.
  4. Body Image Concerns. A common early warning sign of a potential eating disorder is when your child talks about “feeling fat” or begins to count calories. Talk to you child about his or her perceptions about food and body image. If the impressions and behavior persist, seek care before they become ingrained. Early treatment of eating disorders allow for the best remediation of the underlying emotional issues.
  5. Sudden Alteration in Eating Habits. As they grow, most children alter their eating habits and this does not typically indicate an eating disorder. However, be on the lookout for significant changes in your child’s eating habits. Examples of this include: suddenly avoiding carbs or other food groups, skipping meals, new patterns in eating behavior (excessive chewing, overuse of condiments, cutting portions into miniscule pieces, etc.) and rejecting previously favorite food.

The above are five signs common to eating disordered behavior. As with any emotional disorder, if you suspect your child may potentially be at risk, locate a mental health professional who specializes in eating disorders and who can provide individualized care.

If you are interested in a more in-depth discover of eating disorder warning signs, please visit us at, and watch the two videos below, of Dr. Neville Golden from Stanford University’s Children Hospital discuss the risks and warning signs of various types of eating disorders, including Anorexia, Bulimia, Compulsive Overeating and Binge Eating.

Eating Disorders: Risks and Warning Signs Video (Part 1 of 2)

Eating Disorders: Risks and Warning Signs Video (Part 2 of 2)