Dublin: Wave Of Younger Children Now Suffering From Eating Disorders: Research

14 Feb

CHILDREN as young as five are falling victim to eating disorders, according to alarming new findings. www.teenline.ie & www.spunout.ie & www.letsomeoneknow.ie  www.3ts.ie & www.aware.ie

A combination of poor parenting and the growing influence of the media and social networking sites are blamed by experts as the main reasons for the disturbing rise in the number of pre-teens suffering from disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

The Eating Disorder Resource Centre of Ireland says cases of children as young as seven and eight suffering full-blown anorexia, meaning they reduce their food intake to the point where they become starved, have come to its attention.

Also, cases of anorexia among children are not confined, as is widely perceived, to girls. In one distressing case, a five-year-old boy had become so obsessed with his appearance, he developed the illness.

Suzanne Horgan, director and founder of the Dublin-based resource centre, said: “One of the major trends amongst eating disorders is that sufferers are getting younger and younger.

“The media must take a lot of the blame for this for sending out messages of the importance of appearance to seriously impressionable people.

“Parents too, particularly mothers, need to set proper examples to their children.

“For example, a woman should not watch a weight-loss programme on TV with their children present. And if a woman looks in the mirror and says something negative about her own appearance with her child in earshot, the child will absorb what she says.

“It’s particularly important for parents to act responsibly when their kids are very young, because by the age of seven a child’s personality has been defined. And kids are developing a lot more quickly too. It’s not unheard of for girls of nine and 10 to have periods, because the levels of oestrogen in food are bringing puberty on more quickly.

“There are now cases of seven and eight-year-olds with full-blown anorexia.

“I recently received a call from a lady who was distressed about her friend’s son, who had developed anorexia. She told me that although he was just five, he was vomiting and weighing himself repeatedly.

“That really scared me.”

* The Eating Disorder Resource Centre of Ireland delivers affordable resources, including therapy, education, training, information, advice, support and care to individuals experiencing eating disorders. Visit: www.eatingdisorders.ie

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