Eating disorders are a serious problem that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. As a parent, it can be difficult to know if your child has an eating disorder, especially if they’re trying to hide it from you.
This quiz is designed to help you determine if your child may have an eating disorder.
What is an Eating Disorder?
An eating disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by an unhealthy relationship with food. People with eating disorders may restrict their food intake, binge eat, purge, or engage in other unhealthy behaviors around food. Eating disorders can cause a variety of physical and emotional health problems and can be life-threatening if left untreated.
Types of Eating Disorders
There are several types of eating disorders, including:
- Anorexia nervosa: a condition in which a person restricts their food intake to the point of starvation
- Bulimia nervosa: a condition in which a person binge eats and then purges (such as by vomiting or using laxatives)
- Binge eating disorder: a condition in which a person regularly eats large amounts of food and feels out of control
- Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED): a condition in which a person’s eating disorder does not fit into the other categories
Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder
There are many signs and symptoms that could indicate that your child has an eating disorder. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Obsession with food, calories, or weight
- Restricting food intake or eating very small portions
- Binge eating or compulsive overeating
- Purging after meals (such as by vomiting or using laxatives)
- Excessive exercise
- Avoiding social situations where food is present
- Body dysmorphia (an intense dissatisfaction with one’s appearance)
- Depression or anxiety
- Withdrawal from friends and family
How to Talk to Your Child About Eating Disorders
If you suspect that your child may have an eating disorder, it’s important to approach the subject with empathy and understanding. Here are some tips for talking to your child:
- Choose a time when you and your child are both calm and relaxed
- Express your concern and let your child know that you’re there to help
- Avoid using blame or shame
- Listen actively to your child’s perspective
- Offer support and resources for treatment
The Eating Disorder Quiz
Answer the following questions to the best of your knowledge. Be honest with yourself, and keep track of your score as you go:
|Does your child frequently skip meals or eat very small portions?|
|Does your child obsess over calories or have a very restricted diet?|
|Has your child lost a significant amount of weight recently?|
|Does your child binge eat or eat to the point of feeling sick?|
|Does your child purge after meals (such as by vomiting or using laxatives)?|
|Does your child engage in excessive exercise?|
|Has your child expressed dissatisfaction with their body or appearance?|
Add up your score using the following key:
- 0-5: Low risk of an eating disorder
- 6-10: Moderate risk of an eating disorder
- 11-15: High risk of an eating disorder
What to Do if Your Child Has an Eating Disorder
If you suspect that your child has an eating disorder, the most important thing to do is to seek professional help. Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that require specialized care. Here are some steps you can take:
- Consult with your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider
- Get a referral to a mental health provider who specializes in eating disorders
- Encourage your child to attend therapy and/or a support group
- Work with your child’s treatment team to develop an appropriate treatment plan
- Be supportive and patient, and recognize that recovery from an eating disorder is a process
If you suspect that your child may have an eating disorder, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible. Eating disorders are serious conditions that can have serious consequences, but with the right treatment, recovery is possible. Remember, you are not alone, and there are many resources available to help you and your child through this difficult time.
Common Questions and Answers
- Q: What should I do if my child refuses to get treatment for their eating disorder?
- A: It can be difficult to convince someone with an eating disorder to seek treatment, but it’s important to keep trying. You may need to involve other family members, friends, or healthcare providers in the process. Remember that people with eating disorders often fear losing control, so it’s important to approach the topic with empathy and understanding.
- Q: Can boys have eating disorders?
- A: Yes, eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender. However, eating disorders are more commonly diagnosed in girls than in boys. Boys may be less likely to seek help for their eating disorder due to stigma or social pressure to be muscular or lean.
- Q: How can I prevent my child from developing an eating disorder?
- A: Eating disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, and mental health. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent an eating disorder, you can promote a healthy relationship with food and body image by modeling healthy habits, avoiding diet culture, and teaching your child to value themselves for who they are, not their appearance.
- National Eating Disorders Association. “What are Eating Disorders?” 2021. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/what-are-eating-disorders
- Mayo Clinic. “Eating Disorders.” 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eating-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20353603
- National Institute of Mental Health. “Eating Disorders.” 2018. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml