Child Eating Disorders, Part 2: April 10, 2011

From one end of the scale to the other. With more cases of childhood obesity being reported, the opposite problem is also taking a drastic turn. "Coaches need to be looking for this. Parents need to be looking for this. And they need to be talking to kids about healthy and unhealthy ways to maintain weight," says Dr. Angela D'Alessandro, a pediatrician on The Children's Hospital medical staff.

The Journal of Pediatrics reports that over the past decade, there's been a sharp increase in girls under the age of 12 diagnosed with bulimia and anorexia. There weer also more cases involving teen and pre-teen boys. The warning signs? "I would say any sort of an unhealthy preoccupation with their weight, with dieting, maybe failure to grow in a younger child, or extreme weight loss in an older child. Those could be some signs."

Discussing the topic can be difficult for both the parent and the child. "It's a slippery slope. I think the reflex is to be angry. I have seen a lot of parents that are in denial. They ignore it. These are completely expected but certainly, I think the right thing to do is to approach the child, confront the child, and then to bring them to medical attention so we can get more people at the table to start talking and treating the disorder," adds Dr. D'Alessandro.

Treatment comes in a variety of forms. "It's a multi-disciplinary approach. So, the primary care physician is usually the team leader. But then we have lots of other practitioners involved: for instance: a nutritionist to develop a nutrition plan, a psychiatrist to handle the psychiatric evaluation, which needs to take place. And then usually, a psychologist because these kids are going to need on-going counseling."

Because children's bodies are still developing, it's important to get help early to avoid irreversible changes to their body structure and brain development.