Are you wondering “Does my child have an eating disorder?” Maybe you have noticed that your child has been behaving differently around food lately. Maybe you’ve noticed changes in how your child eats. Or maybe you just have a sneaking suspicion that your child is keeping something secret from you. The bottom line is that if you have landed on this page, then you have some concerns about your child’s eating patterns, and that’s a significant reason to be concerned and take some action.
You are probably familiar with some of the common criteria by which a person can be diagnosed with an eating disorder, including, but not limited to:
- Restricting food
- Binge-eating food
- Purging food using vomiting, laxatives or exercise
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Inaccurate self-image in terms of body weight and shape
Sometimes a parent can recognize these obvious signs in a child. However, more often, the obvious signs are hard to spot for three main reasons:
- Secrecy: It is common for a child who has an eating disorder to hide their major symptoms, so parents are often not aware they exist.
- Diet Culture: Our society applauds weight loss and efforts to control the body through food restriction, so parents can miss critical eating disorder symptoms because they fall under socially-acceptable dieting behavior.
- “Terrible Teen” Myths: Our cultural belief that adolescents are necessarily “difficult” and obsessed with their bodies means that eating disorder behaviors can remain hidden in plain sight.
We have created a quiz to help you hone in on your concerns about whether your child has an eating disorder. This quiz is in no way meant to take the place of a medical and psychological evaluation – it’s only designed to help a parent whose “spidey senses” are tingling to determine the next course of action.
We strongly recommend that if you are concerned enough to take this quiz, then you should seek consultation with an eating disorder specialist who can help you determine next steps, regardless of your quiz outcome. No online quiz can take the place of a parent’s intuition that something is wrong. It may not be an eating disorder – it may be something entirely different, but you should listen closely to your instincts that something is going on with your child and seek help from someone who is qualified to help you figure out what it is.
A word of caution
If you believe your child has an eating disorder, it is best not to ask directly without getting some information and support. Even with your best intentions and love for us, we may perceive your questions about our eating behaviors as confrontational or threatening. Many of us resist parental involvement in our eating disorders and will deny their existence even when asked directly.
Begin by contacting the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline at (800) 931-2237. Trained volunteers are available Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM ET, and Friday from 9AM to 5PM ET.
The best approach may be to consult with a trained and experienced eating disorder expert who has experience working with families who are dealing with eating disorders. Begin with a conversation about your concerns, and then discuss how best to bring your child into the conversation. A gentle, compassionate, and calm approach will help your child enter recovery willingly, which will lead to much greater success. No matter how much you love us, we cannot recover for your sake alone. It has been well documented that we only fully recover from eating disorders when we find our own purpose and meaning for recovery.
Take the quiz: Does my child have an eating disorder quiz
If you would like to read more about how parents can recognize eating disorder symptoms, please check out these articles:
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