What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders affect both boys and girls and the term itself is responsible for a vast spectrum of varying issues, all of which are categorised by an abnormal attitude towards food.

At Child Therapy London, the three disorders we most commonly deal with are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating.

What is Anorexia?

‘Anorexia' is an eating disorder characterised by an abnormally low body weight (accompanied by a distorted perception of their body) and an intense fear of gaining weight. Those with Anorexia place a high value on controlling their weight and shape, often going to extreme efforts such as persistent over-exercising.

What is Bulimia?

‘Bulimia' describes the behaviour of a person who attempts to manage their weight by vomiting after eating. Sometimes a person will use laxatives in order to expel food quickly instead of vomiting and/or follow it with over-exercising, fasting or strict dieting.

What is Binge Eating?

Binge Eating describes a person's compulsion to eat excessive quantities of food in a short period of time, which is usually done in secret and in response to an emotional trigger.

Some children and teens may show signs or symptoms of some of the above, but not necessarily all of them, nor all of the time. This type of eating disorder is referred to as EDNOS, which stands for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

Eating disorders are usually incredibly complex behaviours and are often not the cause of one particular underlying issue. In the media there is a great emphasis (and unfortunately a slow change in attitude) to the way body image is portrayed. It is felt that the representation of thin or muscular, clear-skinned, air-brushed models promotes an unrealistic and often damaging expectation upon children and teenagers, which in turn can lead to a lack of confidence and low self-esteem, as well as an obsessive desire to have the perfect body.

That said, whilst the media shall not remain blameless, there are other contributing factors that can cause an eating disorder to manifest.

Family history and habits: In cases whereby a family member has ever suffered/is currently suffering with an eating disorder, this can be an influencing factor for a young person. A family history of depression, alcohol and/or drug abuse can also be an influencer for a young person and affect their views with regards to body image an their relationship towards food.

Bullying and teasing: If the child in question has ever had their body size, shape or image ridiculed, this may also be a significant factor in causing their ED (Eating Disorder). He/She may fall into the habit of self-criticising, particularly if they have hobbies/sports that encourage a certain physique for optimum performance, such as dancing, swimming or gymnastics.

Control and decision-making: Constant school pressures, expectations from parents, rigid schedules and being controlled by rules and restrictions can cause children to feel as though they have no ownership over their own lives. To counteract this, it is not uncommon for children to take an extreme level of control over their eating habits, often refusing food as an act of rebellion.The feeling of a lack of control is also common for those who have a tendency for perfectionism. Rarely able to achieve ‘perfection' with regards to almost anything, can lead to anxiety and obsessive behaviours.In both of these cases, an eating disorder is a symptom of a child's need to be in control.

Confidence and self-esteem issues: Young people who have suffered any sort of abuse be it physical, mental or emotional, are particularly at risk of encountering a low self-esteem. Self-esteem issues can also occur after experiencing big life changes. Common triggers include the death of a relative/friend, parents divorcing or a change of schools.

At Child Therapy London, eating disorders are diagnosed and the root causes evaluated to give clients (and/or their family) a deeper understanding of their condition. An appropriate recovery programme is then offered.

Without the correct diagnosis and treatment, eating disorders can be fatal. However, with the right help, people (especially children) are more than capable of making a full recovery. At Child Therapy London our priority is to address the psychological root causes and treat the issue through successful psychological treatments, rather than recommending medications such as anti-depressants which we believe only repress the mind's call for help.

The therapy techniques that we employ includes NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), Time Line Therapy™, Hypnotherapy and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), which all provide fast and effective solutions. Our treatment programme also includes talks and information regarding a positive and balanced approach to exercise and nutrition.