This week marks National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, an effort to increase outreach and awareness of eating disorders and body image issues. A recent article tells the story of a young girl who was diagnosed with an eating disorder at age 6.
Giving up sweets at first, Sophie began starving herself in kindergarten eating smaller and smaller portions of food. Because her height and weight matched that of a normally active girl at her age, Sophie’s parents had no idea their daughter would be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa by the first grade. She complained of being dizzy and having “itchy skin” and hadn’t gained a pound in 10 months.
Anorexia nervosa is a chronic brain disorder with no known cause and is rare among young children; however, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the rate jumped 72-percent between 1999 and 2009. The disorder is highly inheritable by those who have a family member with an eating disorder or a co-morbidity like anxiety.
“No one knows what triggers it,” said Dr. Julie O’Toole, founder and medical director of the The Kartini Clinic. “But it’s not caused by the media or by pressure to be thin, though people like to blame that,” she said. “Parents don’t cause eating disorders and children don’t choose to have them.”
After contacting F.E.A.S.T. (Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders), Sophie’s mother, Anne, learned to “take responsibility” for her eating including plating her food and making eating mandatory before other activities. Sophie is now back to a healthy weight and is taking antidepressants for anxiety.
“The more you understand about anorexia, the more you understand it conceptually as a brain disorder, and that is empowering,” O’Toole said. “It’s not a character flaw or a parenting issue or dysfunctional relationship. It’s the luck of the draw.”
Read the complete article on ABC News and learn more about anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders on the above and following websites.
BMWK — What would you do if you suspected your child had an eating disorder? How are you raising your kids to have a healthy self-image of themselves?
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