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Eating disorders are one of the most common mental health issues among children and teens, yet also one of the most mysterious to parents.

Types of childhood eating disorders

An eating disorder is defined as abnormal or unhealthy patterns of eating, usually brought on by psychological stresses. There are several common types of eating disorders a child might struggle with:

1. Anorexia
Anorexia is intentionally restricting food intake to an unhealthy degree, often to the point of all-out starvation. Anorexia can be triggered by weight or body image concerns, but it just as often is connected to more complicated psychological issues.

2. Bulimia
Intentionally purging food just consumed, either by vomiting or using laxatives, in an attempt to avoid the guilt or calories that come with eating. Bulimia often coincides with binge eating, but not always. Bulimia is almost always related to body image and weight concerns.

3. Binge Eating
Binge eating is consuming large amounts of food within a short period of time, often as a means of coping with stress. Essentially, it involves a child using food as a type of drug, overindulging for the natural pleasure it provides. Binge eating can also arise as a side-effect of restrictive dieting.

4. Atypical Anorexia
A subset of people who engage in anorexic behaviors as a means of losing weight, but aren’t yet so deathly skinny that they look malnourished. They often go longer before being diagnosed or receiving treatment, which can make the disorder more entrenched and harder to treat.

Other eating disorders:

Pica is a unique disorder in which children eat and have cravings for non-food items, such as glue, hair, Play-doh, and so forth. If you think your child has this condition, see our information on pica, which is discussed elsewhere on our site.

Food phobias
Some children show extreme aversions to food that are both abnormal and irrational. If this is the problem you’re dealing with, see our information on food fears in children and picky eating, which are discussed in other areas.

This area focuses on the 3 main eating disorders parents of teen and preteen children are most likely to encounter: Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. On the surface these 3 eating disorders might seem very different from one another, but they are much more similar than you might think. Binge eating often occurs alongside bulimia, anorexia often triggers binge eating, and many girls switch anorexia and bulimia as weight loss strategies. So it’s not uncommon for those with a history of eating disorders to have engaged in all 3 behaviors at least occasionally at some point in their life.

Facts & statistics eating disorders in children

Help for children & teens

Struggling with an eating disorder If your child is struggling with an eating disorder, our book Understanding & Overcoming Eating Disorders will provide the salvation you need. It helps parents better understand the root causes and psychology involved in eating disorders, so that you can better understand your teen’s habits and behaviors. It offers a detailed, step-by-step guide to curing a loved one’s eating disorder, so that you can help them get their life back on track.

This eco-friendly e-Book is just $7.99, a tiny fraction of what it will cost you if you delay addressing your child’s condition. Plus, all proceeds from your purchase go to help children in need, so you can get your child the help they deserve while helping other children at the very same time.

  • Get Understanding & Overcoming Eating Disorders ($7.99; Kindle e-book, coming soon)

Additional Information on Child Mental Health

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