My Child May Have an Eating Disorder -- What Can I Do?

My Child May Have an Eating Disorder -- What Can I Do?

The other day I heard my 13-year-old daughter complain, "I'm fat." She's started to stay away from family meals and says she's not hungry. I'm upset that she's already worried about her weight and that she may be developing an eating disorder. How do I know if there's a problem and what can I do to help her if there is?
- Kirsten

It's common for teens to be concerned about how they look and to feel self-conscious about their weight. During puberty, kids' bodies change dramatically and they face mounting social pressures, like dating, making friends, and fitting in.

But when these concerns become obsessions or begin to involve abnormal behaviors or negative thoughts about body image, weight, and food, eating disorders can occur. Someone who starts to do things that are emotionally or physically dangerous in order to lose weight may have an eating problem.

Other signs of an eating disorder include becoming very thin, having a fear of weight gain, playing with or moving food around on the plate instead of eating it, exercising compulsively, loss of menstrual periods, or constantly talking about weight and food. Some people with eating disorders binge eat, then induce vomiting, use laxatives, or use diuretics.

If you're concerned that your daughter may have an eating disorder, it's important to get her the help she may need right away. Let her know that you're worried because of the things that you have noticed. Disordered eating can be very dangerous and can lead to a variety of health problems. Have your daughter talk to a counselor, doctor, or a mental health professional.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: July 2013





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
OrganizationCenter for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia This nonprofit organization is concerned with effective treatment, specialized training, significant research, and increased community understanding. Contact the group at: Center for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia
1841 Broadway, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10023
(212) 333-3444
OrganizationNational Eating Disorders Association The NEDA is a nonprofit association dedicated to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders. Contact them at: National Eating Disorders Association
603 Stewart St.
Suite 803 Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 382-3587
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) AACAP offers up-to-date information on child and adolescent development and issues.
Web SiteStrong Girls On this site, you can find information about self-esteem and healthy relationships, as well resources if you or someone you know needs help.
Related Articles
I Think My Friend May Have an Eating Disorder. What Should I Do? Sometimes, normal body-image concerns cross the line and become eating disorders. Here's how to help if your friend might have a problem.
Binge Eating Disorder Kids who eat unusually large amounts of food - and feel guilty or secretive about it - could be struggling with an eating disorder called binge eating disorder.
Help! Is This My Body? Your body's changing - and if you've ever felt out of step with it, you're not alone. Find out how to deal with body changes and feelings in this article.
How Can I Feel Better About My Body? It's normal to wish you could change something about your body. Find out more about these feelings in this article for kids.
Body Image and Self-Esteem When your body changes, so can your image of yourself. Find out how your body image affects your self-esteem and what you can do.
Kids and Exercise Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit sleep better and are better able to handle physical and emotional challenges.
Binge Eating Disorder Binge eating is a type of eating disorder. This article for teens explains what it is, how to recognize it, and how to get help.
A Guy's Guide to Body Image Many people think of guys as being carefree when it comes to appearance. But guys spend plenty of time in front of the mirror. And some worry just as much as girls do about their looks.
Encouraging a Healthy Body Image A healthy and positive body image means liking your body, appreciating it, and feeling grateful for its qualities and capabilities. Parents can help kids develop a healthy body image.
How Can I Improve My Self-Esteem? We all experience problems with self-esteem at certain times in our lives — especially during our teens when we are figuring out who we are and where we fit in the world.
How Can I Help My Healthy Daughter Realize She's Not Fat? Find out what the experts have to say.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder For teens, concerns about appearances often take center stage. But if these concerns are all-consuming, cause extreme distress, and keep them from doing and thinking about other things, it may be a sign of a condition called body dysmorphic disorder.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder For some people, worries about appearance become extreme and upsetting, interfering with their lives, a condition called body dysmorphic disorder.
Female Athlete Triad Female athlete triad is a combination of three conditions: disordered eating, amenorrhea (loss of a girl's period), and osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones).
Compulsive Exercise Compulsive exercise can lead to serious health problems. Lots of people don't know when they've crossed the line from healthy activity to unhealthy addiction. Read about ways to tell.
Compulsive Exercise Even though exercise has many positive benefits, too much can be harmful. Teens who exercise compulsively are at risk for both physical and psychological problems.
Eating Disorders Eating disorders are so common in America that 1 or 2 out of every 100 students will struggle with one. Find out more.
Eating Disorders Eating disorders are common among teens and kids, especially young women. Read about the warning signs, prevention strategies, and ways to help a child with an eating disorder.
Kids and Eating Disorders Eating too little or deliberately throwing up after eating are two serious kinds of eating disorders. Find out more in this article for kids.
Taking Your Child to a Therapist Kids, like adults, can often benefit from therapy – but there are many important things to consider as you look for the right therapist.
iGrow iGrow
Sign up for our parent enewsletter