Common types of eating disorders in children

When your child refuses to eat or eats too little, he experiences intense fear of being fat, he hides to binge himself, or he has cuts and calluses across the top finger joints, he might have an eating disorder.


eating-disorders-in-childrenEating disorders are syndromes characterized by major disturbances in eating behavior and by distress or excessive concern about body shape or weight. Medical manuals specify eating disorders as mental disorders. There are 5 types of eating disorders conventionally recognized: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, eating disorders not otherwise specified, binge eating disorder and pica.

The two best-known types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Two significant symptoms of anorexia nervosa are the refusal to maintain a healthy body weight (anorexic children are 15% below their ideal weight) and a distorted view of the body weight.

Binge eat (eat more food all at once than most people would normally eat in the same setting) and purge the food by inducing vomit are signs of bulimia nervosa.

Eating disorders not otherwise specified are variants of chaotic eating that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, but for a combination of these two disorders.

Pica is compulsive craving for eating, chewing or licking non-food items or foods containing no nutrition.

For children aged less than 12 years old, anorexia and compulsive eating are more common. Compulsive overeating or binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by binge eating, followed by a feeling of disgust, depression or guilt.

If it already crossed your mind that your 3 years old child has an eating disorder because he is picky about food, it is not the time to worry yet. Picky eating is considered a temporary childhood phase, a normal part of childhood development. The age of 18 months and 3 years old is specific for the onset of picky eating behavior, but it is considered that will generally overcome with age (the child grows out of the picky phase most of the time by the age of 6). Picky children prefer a specific food for a longer period of time and they usually get resistant about new foods (like a mild form of food neophobia), but when they get really hungry, they will agree to eat the new kind of food.

Quite similar, selective eating disorder (SED) shows up in early childhood (more currently from birth to 4 years old), but it is a little more “aggravated” form of picky food behavior. It is an eating disorder that prevents the consumption of certain foods. Unlike picky eating which typically presents no medical issues, selective eating disorder raises some problems like food trauma, oral-motor delay, swallowing disorders, gastrointestinal disorders etc. Children with SED may not grow out of the disorder and may continue to be afflicted by the disease throughout their adult lives. Selective eating disorder lacks formal diagnostic criteria and classification and is not currently listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

There are a lot of biological and psychological factors that can lead to eating disorders, so most of the time is rather hard to determine when and why these abnormal eating habits occur. Any parent should pay a lot of attention to the eating habits of their children, to be able to discover any possible disorder on time.

To understand how often these medical conditions occur, you should know that a research from Canada revealed the fact that for kids between the ages of 5 and 12, the rate of eating disorders is twice that of Type 2 diabetes.

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