Identifying Subtle Signs in Young People
Children and teens don't always know how to express themselves, especially when they're struggling emotionally. If you suspect that your child or teen may be struggling with an eating disorder, it is important to take this concern seriously and seek professional help.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), the earlier an ED is detected, chances for recovery increase. We're here to help you identify warning signs that your child may be struggling.
Avoiding Family Meals
With busy work and school schedules, eating dinner together is one of the ways parents can ensure that their kids are maintaining a healthy diet. If you find that your little one is constantly finding excuses not to eat with the rest of the family, this may pose a red flag. Some signs of meal avoidance may include:
- Insisting they’ve eaten already.
- Asking to take dinner to their room.
- Refusing to eat in front of you.
- Refusing to eat “unhealthy” foods i.e., cooked with butter, fried, etc.
Sudden Increased Interest in Their Appearance
While it is not uncommon for young people to care more about their appearance or feel insecure while their bodies continue to change, there comes the point where focusing on their physique can become a cause for concern. Unusual behaviors that may suggest a negative body image may include:
- Spending excessive amounts of time in the mirror.
- Increased focus on weight.
- Working out excessively.
- Avoiding wearing a swimsuit.
- Wearing baggy clothes to hide their body.
- Making statements that connect their appearance with self-worth.
Abnormal Fluctuations in Weight
While children and teens continue to grow, they are expected to gain weight as they enter adolescence. While in adults, a dramatic loss of weight is concerning, for young people, failure to gain the proper weight and even losing small amounts of weight can pose a problem.
Changes in Attitudes and Behavior
Isolation and irritability are two common signs that your child may be struggling with their mental health and potentially disordered eating. While they may not be actively trying to hide what they’re feeling and thinking, the following behaviors may suggest the presence of an eating disorder:
- Mood swings.
- A drop in previously good grades.
- Isolation from friends and social events.
It is important to note that the symptoms listed above are not a checklist—young people struggling with eating disorders won’t necessarily have all of these signs and symptoms simultaneously. Different eating disorders also have unique symptoms that accompany them; the symptoms listed above are general changes in behavior that may point to a more significant issue.