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Learn More About Feeding and Eating Disorders

A feeding issue may be identified as a disorder in a child or teen if he or she refuses to eat particular types of food, including solids and liquids, for a month or more, resulting in insufficient weight gain or natural growth, but there are also variants of eating disorders that may show up in children and teens which will be identified below. 

Feeding and Disorders in children and teens are diagnosed using the criteria of the fifth edition of the DSM-5 (May 2013).  In this edition, the diagnostic of feeding disorder of infancy or early childhood was renamed avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). Additionally, the diagnostic criteria were broadened. 

Types Of Eating Disorders In Children And Teens

The Eating and Feeding Disorders related to infants, children and teens include:

  • Pica: When kids over 2 years of age tend to ingest non-food items like paint, erasers, plastic etc., they are diagnosed with the eating disorder known as Pica.
  • Rumination Disorder: Rumination Disorder may be diagnosed in children or teens when undigested food is brought back up in the mouth and either it gets re-chewed, re-swallowed or thrown out.
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder may be diagnosed when children or teens do not meet their nutritional demands because they avoid certain food items. Children tend to suffer from malnutrition and face growth delays if this disorder persists for a long time.
  • Anorexia Nervosa: Anorexia Nervosa is commonly referred to as anorexia and may be diagnosed in children or teens with abnormally low-weight and fear gaining weight for just about any reason. The two major types of anorexia include the Restricting Type (where weight loss Is a result of lack of food intake) and the Binge-Eating/ Purging Type (where the weight loss is because of self-induced vomiting and other means).
  • Bulimia Nervosa: A child or teen with bulimia nervosa or "bulimia" overeats or binges uncontrollably and to remove the guilt of this unhealhty choice he or she may go for self-induced throwing up (purging).
  • Binge-Eating Disorder: Children who consume unusually large amounts of food and feel regretful or sneaky about it may be suffering from binge eating disorder.

How Prevalent Are Eating Disorders In Children And Teens

A study in the Journal of Pediatrics revealed a high prevalence of different eating disorders in children aged 12 and under.

Causes Of An Eating Disorder In Children And Teens

The underlying causes for any sort of eating disorder can be many including the genetic, behavioral or health-related aspects.  

Signs Of An Eating Disorder In Children And Teens

Some of the most important warning indicators are as follows:

  • emotional outbursts
  • a disproportionate number of bowel movements
  • concern about one's physical appearance
  • abstaining from consuming food
  • decreasing the size of food servings
  • a reduction in body weight
  • a lack of development
  • constipation or digestive difficulties
  • keeping food hidden or storing it
  • mood swings

Treatment Plans:

An eating disorder may or may not be the result of some other diagnosis i.e. depression, anxiety etc. It could also be a result of some traumatic event like death which may lead to any sort of eating disorder. However, for its proper diagnosis and treatment, you need to see your child’s pediatrician, nutritionist, and psychologist and help them treat your child effectively (The FBT plan!). If the situation is grave, you may be asked to have your child admitted for the residential program particularly meant to resolve this issue.

Outcomes of Treatment and Success Rate:

If FBT (Family Based Treatment) is chosen along with other options, the success rate becomes very high in its resolution. So, any sort of eating disorder can be resolved through a comprehensive approach.