Typically teenagers and young adults are prone to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, but researchers have now found that children between the ages of 8 to 12, who are difficult eaters, could be suffering from psychological issues. Experts warned the parents that restrictive eating behaviours can surface even before puberty.
The team led by Prof. Dominique Meilleur, a clinical psychologist, queried how eating disorders develop and are diagnosed and she explains: "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."
An eating disorder is an illness that causes significant disturbances to an individual’s everyday diet. This could lead to a person eating too little or too much. The researchers, from the University of Montreal in Canada and the CHU Sainte-Justine children's hospital, notices that increasingly, researchers are finding that eating disorders arise as a result of interactions between genetic, biological, behavioural, psychological and social factors. Additionally, eating disorders often occur alongside other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse or anxiety disorders.
215 children between the ages of 8 and 12 with eating problems were studies for their psychological, sociodemographic and physiological characteristics. Children with any physical issues that could cause eating disorders such as diabetes or cystic fibrosis were excluded. The participants often suffered from anxiety, mood disorders and attention deficiency.
It was found by the team that 95% of the children had restrictive eating behaviours, 69.4% were afraid of putting on weight and 46.6% described themselves as “fat.” Prof. Meilleur mentioned, "these behaviours reflect the clinical presentations we observe in adolescents and support findings that body image is a preoccupation for some children as early as elementary school."
The findings were presented at the Eating Disorders Association of Canada conference in Vancouver.
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