Supporting Young People with Eating Disorders

Supporting Young People with Eating Disorders

This has been written for us by Dr Tina Rae, an HCPC registered Educational and Child Psychologist, Author and Educational Consultant.

Eating disorders are a serious psychological / emotional disorder, formally classified as a psychiatric illness, which has significant medical and psychological consequences.  We know that Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate amongst psychiatric illnesses.

It is important that we have an understanding of all these disorders; Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder (OSFED) formerly known as EDNOS.  We need to be skilled in looking for the warning signs in young people, as the earlier we detect the problem, the more likely we are to engage the young person in the appropriate intervention.

Risk factors include:

  • Interpersonal hypersensitivity – naturally shy, reserved and tends to “take things to heart”

  • Perfectionism – highly self-driven and tends to set unrelenting standards (usually associated with a strong fear of failure)

  • Emotional inhibition – tendency to suppress feelings rather than talking about them

  • Low self-esteem

  • History of traumatic experience

 

What to look out for:

Change in character

  • Being more quiet and isolated
  • Reduction in level of interest
  • Decrease in performance

Change in eating behaviour

  • Eating very little
  • Stop eating with peers or in public
  • Going to toilet after meals

Mood changes

  • Low mood and tearfulness
  • Anxiety and irritability

Physical changes

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Lack of concentration

Social changes

  • Isolated and withdrawn

Also look out for:

  • Sudden increased focus on (or even obsession with) academic work / sports / exercises
  • May appear to be overly matured and sensible
  • Putting on brave front – appear to be coping well

 

It is always important to offer support and NOT initially focus on food.

Encourage to talk about what really bothers them and provide “pointers” such as B-eat website (www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk) and other Self-help materials. Always encourage them to seek professional help.

The following resources may be of help:

https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/
The Beat website gives a huge amount of information, support ideas and other resources for young people, professionals, carers and the media.  They have a helpline service for adults, one for young people, an email help service.
 
https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/for-parents/tips-on-supporting-your-child/parents-guide-to-support-eating-problems/
Young Minds Eating Disorders Information

For information on this subject by Dr Tina Rae and similar resources, click here.
For Nurture Group's website, click here.

"Eating disorders are a serious psychological / emotional disorder, formally classified as a psychiatric illness, which has significant medical and psychological consequences."

"We need to be skilled in looking for the warning signs in young people, as the earlier we detect the problem, the more likely we are to engage the young person in the appropriate intervention."