FAQ's about Eating Disorders

What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is a serious psychiatric/medical condition which can profoundly affect a persons psychological and emotional well being. Eating disorders are characterized by extreme thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food . There are several types of eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. There is also a newly identified eating disorder called Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder or ARFID.
Please go to the Link and Resources tab at the bottom of this page to learn more about eating disorders.

Eating disorders can often have severe and even life threatening symptoms. Research suggests that early identification and intervention is very helpful to a successful recovery.

What causes eating disorders?

The exact cause of an eating disorder is unknown. Biological/neurological factors are thought to play a large part in the development of eating disorders. Environmental factors and certain psychological conditions also are identified as contributing factors. Parenting styles and overly controlling mothering were blamed for eating disorders in children and adolescents. This hypothesis has been largely debunked. Parents are now viewed as a vital resource to help their child or adolescent recover.

What are some of the warning signs that my child or teenager or loved one might have an eating disorder? (These vary depending on the type of eating disorder)
  • Failure to gain weight or weight loss over a relatively short amount of time that has not been explained by another medical cause.
  • Change in eating patterns such as becoming "healthy" and cutting back and eliminating previously enjoyed foods
  • Behaviors such as skipping snacks and meals and cutting back on portions,
  • Appearing to eat when not actually eating, lying about what was eaten, avoiding situations where food is involved
  • Odd food rituals such as taking a long time to eat or cutting food into small pieces.
  • Secretive or "closet" eating
  • GI complaints and problems such as constipation.
  • General fatigue, lack of energy, feeling cold, dizziness or fainting
  • Going to the bathroom or shower right after a meal
  • Damaged teeth and gums
  • Loss of period or irregular period
  • Moodiness and irritability, change in personality
  • Withdrawal from usual social activities
  • Body image issues such as complaints of "being fat"
  • Noticing large amounts of food missing from the kitchen

What should I do if I suspect that my child has an eating disorder?
First and foremost trust your instincts. You know your child . If you believe there is a concern, speak to your pediatrician. If your concerns are not fully addressed go to a physician and or a mental health professional that specializes in eating disorders to make sure that your child is properly assessed.

What is Maudsley or Family Based Treatment?

Family-Based treatment is an evidenced based approach with views parents and families as the best resource to help their child overcome an eating disorder. Coached by a therapist trained in this method, parents are empowered to help their struggling child overcome the debilitating effects of the illness. For more information www.maudsleyparents.org. For a list of certified providers to go www.train2treat4ed.com

What is Enhanced Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT-E)

This is an evidenced based treatment based on principals of Cognitive Behavior therapy to help an individual (an older teen or adult) struggling with an eating disorder. It can be an effective treatment with number of eating disorders including bulimia, binge eating disorder and restrictive eating disorders such as anorexia. 
What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

This is a condition which is primarily characterized by an avoidance of eating or severely limited eating. This lack of eating or very limited eating affects a child's health such as failure to grow at the expected rate. It can also affect a child's social and emotional functioning. For example a child wont want to eat at a friends house because there might not be any food there that he/she likes. This is not the result of another medical condition. It also typically does not involve body image issues. Types of problems that are commonly associated with this disorder are:
  • Very picky eating,
  • Sensory issues in which a child is very sensitive to texture , smell and taste of foods
  • Phobia of eating or swallowing after a traumatic event such as choking

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