Early Childhood Eating Disorders

Early childhood eating disorders are not very common but child eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia have been known to occur in children as young as six years old. These eating disorders most commonly develop in adolescence or young adulthood, however. There are a few early childhood eating disorders that are rarely seen in older children or adults though, such as pica. Pica occurs most often in young children.

Types of Child Eating Disorders

Causes of Child Eating Disorders

We don’t know for sure what causes early childhood eating disorders. There may be a genetic component to some child eating disorders. Some researchers also think an imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain may cause some children to develop eating disorders.

People that suffer from psychological disorders like depression, generalized anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to develop eating disorders. These disorders are more common in teens and adults than in young children but children as young as three years old have been diagnosed with things like depression and anxiety.

Pica in young children has been associated with certain developmental disorders like autism and some experts also think that nutritional deficiencies like iron deficiencies may lead to the development of pica in some children.

Treating Child Eating Disorders

Treating early childhood eating disorders is a bit different than treating eating disorders in teens or adults. Most people with eating disorders require some medical care and most also need mental health care. However, the type of mental health care that benefits teens and adults does not work as well for young children. Young children don’t benefit much from psychotherapy but may respond well to play therapy.

Family involvement in the treatment process benefits most people with eating disorders but it’s especially important in the treatment of early childhood eating disorders. Parents or caregivers need to learn about their child’s disorder and how to best care for and support their child during the recovery process. Family members also need support because dealing with a seriously ill child is very stressful.

If you suspect your child has an eating disorder, you should seek expert treatment as soon as possible. Ask your child’s pediatrician for a referral to a professional that specializes in eating disorders in young children.

More than early childhood eating disorders on our effects of eating disorders page

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