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Across the world, eating disorders, especially amongst children are growing at a dangerous rate. In countries like the United States of America, every 1 or 2 out of 100 children suffer from eating related disorders today.
In India too, some disorders that were previously prevalent in western countries are now slowly surfacing. This is largely because of changing social patterns, lifestyles and a major shift in perceptions related to physical appearance.
In anorexia, children are scared of gaining weight and become extremely conscious of their body form and size. Therefore, they tend to constantly monitor their weight by clamping down on their food intake- this can prove highly dangerous as they are in the growing phase. While some children might go on extreme dieting or fasting, others might exercise excessively or some might just not eat enough, staying in constant fear of what food could do to their bodies.
Bulimia occurs with excessive eating or what is called binge eating, and then purging it out forcefully from the body. Here the child indulges in self-vomiting or excessively uses laxatives to remove the food from the body. Some adolescents even go on an extremely excessive exercise program, just to stay thin.
Though both these disorders are very similar, they are not. In anorexia, the patient is underweight, whereas in bulimia, he may be of normal weight or even over-weight.
They usually manifest during adolescence, or teenage, when the child is going through puberty. This is the time when the teenager begins to feel conscious about his body appearance and his image in front of the world. This is also the time when his or her body undergoes massive physical changes. Social pressures urge the teenager to look his best. Unfortunately, for some adolescents, this could lead to the forming of such eating maladies. If not looked into and arrested immediately, eating disorders could emerge, and quickly grow out of proportion.
Though these are not really clear as yet, a mix of genetic, social, psychological and family factors are said to have an effect. Media exposure also plays an important role. Most celebrities, advertising models and media personnel are thin. This leads children to associate beauty with extreme thinness. Generally, problems at home could also have adverse effects on the teenager’s mental makeup.
Low self-esteem coupled with an intensive focus on weight can direct the child to gain some control on her life by resorting to such artificial forms of food intake and diet regimen, not realizing that it could be very harmful to her in the long run.
Immediately get her to go in for professional help and assistance. Do not use statements like “You are suffering from an eating disorder” or “you have an eating problem”. Instead state” Your losing weight like this so suddenly is causing us worry”. Your doctor will help your child in erasing old patterns of food intake and will try to establish new ones that will boost self-esteem and a feeling of well-being.
Through medical supervision and therapy, and of course your family’s backing and support will surely help your child to soon get out of the disorder plaguing him.
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