Over 1 in 5 Children and Adolescents Present with Disordered Eating
A recent study published in JAMA Paediatrics found that more than one in five children and adolescents presented with disordered eating. Disordered eating is a broad term that includes behaviors such as weight loss dieting, binge eating, self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, and the use of laxatives or diuretics. Researchers noted that disordered eating in childhood/adolescence may predict outcomes associated with eating disorders in early adulthood.
The study authors noted that these high figures are concerning from a public health perspective, and highlight the need to implement strategies for preventing eating disorders. It is crucial to identify the magnitude of disordered eating and its distribution in at-risk populations in order to plan and execute actions aimed at preventing, detecting, and dealing with them.
Eating disorders are among the most life-threatening psychiatric problems, according to Dr. Lopez-Gil. The behaviors related to eating disorders may lead to greater risk or damage to health, significant distress, or significant impairment of functioning.
López-Gil emphasized the importance of adults being conscious of signs of disordered eating both in themselves and their children. Disordered eating is similar in behavior to an eating disorder — it can include strict food rules around how much a person eats, what they are eating and how much they are exercising in relation to their food. Parents can also call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline (800-931-2237) for guidance.
The authors distinguished the difference between eating disorders and disordered eating, saying that not all of those who suffer from the latter would be diagnosed with the former. Those who develop eating disorders may experience significant health impacts and are at an increased risk of dying prematurely.
Disordered eating behavior may be undertreated because kids might hide their symptoms or avoid seeking help due to stigma. In 2019, 14 million people experienced eating disorders, including almost three million children and adolescents. Bulimia nervosa is a condition that typically involves eating to excess and purging in some way such as through vomiting or taking laxatives.
However, it’s important to note that both disordered eating and eating disorders are serious and deserve treatment and professional help. The prevalence of disordered eating could be even higher if children were asked about binge-eating or muscle-building symptoms and included studies during the pandemic.
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