Eating disorders are complex psychological conditions that produce physical complications. There isn’t a simple explanation or a single cause. Research shows that eating disorders have a genetic predisposition and are triggered by the interplay of biological, social and emotional factors, such as stress, bereavement, family break-up, physical illness, bullying or even abuse.

Often an eating disorder is a coping mechanism for managing difficult feelings or emotions. A person may believe that controlling their intake of food will help them to get on with people and feel less alone. For others there is something very powerful about feeling in control of everything – and their weight is one very clear indicator of that control. This belief can develop in someone who is a very high achiever and puts a lot of pressure on themselves in all areas of their life. Many people talk about feeling overwhelmed with hate for themselves when they are feeling low, or about hating how fat they feel they are. Of course, most are not actually overweight, and even though they may be slim already, they feel overweight and are devastated by it.

Signs in children and younger teenagers:

  • Failure to gain weight at a time of expected growth (10-14 years).
  • Sufferers may complain of stomach ache, nausea, constipation etc, but will not admit they are avoiding food.
  • Obsessive and anxious attitudes towards food. This may include unusual diets in younger children.
  • Over-exercising and even the inability to stay still when seated or even refusing to sit down.
  • Calorie counting: Many young children have no idea of the calorific value of food. This means they may not be consistent in eating only low calorie food that may make their eating disorder hard to spot.

Helpful Resources:


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Boy Anorexia

Young Minds

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