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Rising Number of School Aged Children Show Signs Of Eating Disorders

With the growing number of obese adults and children in the United States and the constant flow of waiflike celebrities waving from the front pages of magazines and catalogues, it may not come as such a surprise that eating disorders are now being seen in children between the ages of eight and twelve years. In the past, the most commonly recognized eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia were associated with teens, but picky eaters with psychological issues going untreated beneath the surface could be the cause of this newly growing epidemic. These restrictive eating habits seem to be surfacing more and more before puberty hits as hormones begin to change and children face the inevitable evolution into the teenaged years.


Research Performed On This Subject


The main research team on this case hails from the University of Montreal in Canada, as well as the CHU children’s hospital. The findings were presented at the Eating Disorders Association of Canada conference, which was held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Professor Dominique Meilleur, the lead clinical psychologist on the team began the study by investigating answers regarding how these eating disorders develop as well as how they are properly diagnosed. She is quoted by Medical News Today in saying: "Many researchers believe that bulimia only appears at adolescence, but our studies indicate that the problem can arise much earlier. It is possible that it is currently under-diagnosed due to a lack of awareness and investigation."


Eating disorders are defined by their disturbance to an individual’s regular eating on a significant level. These can be both in the manner of under eating or overeating, both of which can have disastrous results physically and psychologically. Although there is no one specific cause for this type of disorder, researchers have found links between eating disorders and genetics, biological data, social factors, and psychological reasons. In many cases relating to a psychological foundation, eating disorders often are accompanied by anxiety problems, depression, or drug use.


Facts From The Study


The latest study revolving around youth and eating disorders included 215 children aged eight to twelve who had eating issues. The children were monitored by Professor Meilleur and the other associates working on the research project. Children who had physical issues that caused them to be unable to eat properly were not included in the study, but many of the involved individuals did suffer from mood disorders or attention deficiency. Professor Meilleur is quoted by The University Herald in saying: “These results are very concerning but they may help clinicians reach a diagnosis earlier by enabling them to investigate these aspects.”


During this study 95 perfect of the children monitored had eating behaviors that caused them to be restrictive with their foods. 69.4 percent feared gaining weight like 46.6 already perceived themselves as being what they described as fat. These findings solidified the notion that young children do care about body image, and reflect societies views on what should be considered normal.


Revisiting The Statistics


Many eating disorders begin as a small urge to eat less or more foods during a sitting, but can become much more severe as it becomes more difficult to control these amounts. Eating disorders are often brushed off as a girl problem, or an unserious condition, but it can affect both males and females and can be fatal if not properly treated; in fact, anorexics are eighteen times more likely to die early when compared with others of the same age group who don’t suffer from similar disorders; kidshealth.org says: “Not eating enough food or eating food and then throwing up can cause problems with growing and developing in a healthy way. If this goes on for a long time, kids can get very sick and need to go to hospital to be fed through a tube in their nose.”


During the study it was discovered that 52 percent had been hospitalized at least once because of the disorder and that there were mental issues present in 36.3 percent of children in the study.


In order to properly diagnose and treat the children that are slipping under the radars at schools and other youth functions, it’s important that appropriate methods of screening and intervention be put into place. Patients suffering from eating disorders must be treated using methods that are suited to their age and psychological health, especially when working with children who are still developing and learning about themselves. Monitoring bullying and situations where children are made to feel bad about the way that they look might also play a large role in helping to reverse and control the number of eating disorders in school aged children. These changes are up to the parents, teachers, and older children, as no child can be expected to work through something so difficult on their own.

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