National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Anorexia Can Strike As Early as Kindergarten [Video]

Eating Disorders

Anorexia can be deadly if not caught, diagnosed and treated early. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be hard to recognize the on set of the illness, especially in young children.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that makes people lose more weight than is considered healthy for their age and height. Persons with this disorder may have an intense fear of weight gain, even when they are underweight. They may diet or exercise too much, or use other methods to lose weight.

Recently an article by ABC news says anorexia can hit earlier than what we all think. They covered a little girl in kindergarten at the age of 7-years old with the illness. According to the story, Sophie complained of being dizzy, having “itchy skin” and constipation and then later confessed that she had been throwing out the food that she brought to school.

One night, her mother was tucking her into bed when Sophie confessed about being hungry all the time, but couldn’t eat because of a voice inside her was telling her not too. That’s when Sophie’s mother decided to seek help and find treatment. By the time Sophie was diagnosed in the first grade; she hadn’t gained a pound for about 10 months and had dropped from the 60th to the 19th percentile on the weight charts.

According to Dr. Julie O’Toole, pediatrician and founder/medical director of the Kartini Clinic, “In the classic adult form, they are afraid of getting fat and believe themselves to be fat and quit eating on that basis,” she said. “But there are some children 10 and under who refuse to eat and can’t tell you why. And it’s not kids who never did eat much or picky eaters — that’s a whole different field.”

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, there has been a 72 percent rise in the number of children with the deadly eating disorder in the past decade.

In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (Wade, Keski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011).

Anorexia Nervosa

According to National Eating Disorders, anorexia nervosa’s cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. Thus, the body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
  • Muscle loss and weakness.
  • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
  • Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.
  • Growth of a downy layer of hair—called lanugo—all over the body, including the face, inan effort to keep the body warm.

A review of nearly fifty years of research confirms that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder (Arcelus, Mitchell, Wales, & Nielsen, 2011).

For females between fifteen to twenty-four years old who suffer from anorexia nervosa, the mortality rate associated with the illness is twelve times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death (Sullivan, 1995).

In order to recover or treat Anorexia is by help the person recognize that he or she has an illness. Most people with anorexia deny that they have an eating disorder. People often enter treatment only once their condition is serious and are facing serious lifetime side effects or near death.

The goals of treatment are to restore normal body weight and eating habits. A weight gain of 1 – 3 pounds per week is considered a safe goal.

A number of different programs have been designed to treat anorexia. Sometimes the person can gain weight by:

  • Increasing social activity
  • Reducing the amount of physical activity
  • Using schedules for eating

While drugs haven’t been proven to help, some have decrease the desire to want to lose weight.

Medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers may help some anorexic patients when given as part of a complete treatment program. Examples include:

  • Antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa, Zydis) or other antipsychotics

These medicines can help treat depression or anxiety.

Child Anorexic Documentary

A 2006 UK BBC Documentary focusing on “Rhodes Farm” – a treatment clinic specializing in children suffering from anorexia.

8 Year Old Anorexic

Dana is eight years old and anorexic. Cutting Edge follows Dana as she embarks on an intensive 12-week programme at a specialist clinic, to examine why younger and younger children are developing eating disorders.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

About Eating Disorders.

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