When it comes to eating disorders, most people tend to think that it only affects people who are old enough to drive. The ones who spend their free time scrolling through Instagram following their favorite influencers. As the shift towards a younger online audience continues to be the norm, it’s now not uncommon for both males and females under the age of 13 to develop unhealthy eating patterns. From skipping meals to exercising incessantly, their main goal be as popular as their friends or the people the follow online. Successfully treating eating disorders in younger children, starts with identification and prevention. Below are the warnings signs that your child could be developing unhealthy eating patterns.

Preoccupation with Being Thin

With so many famous bloggers and influencers under the age of 18, children are constantly bombarded with images of what they think they should look like. Regardless of gender, children suffering from an eating disorder may start to obsess with being thin. They may ruminate over the fact that their hips are too big or their stomach isn’t flat enough. Unfortunately, this preoccupation can lead to anorexia nervosa, a disorder in which someone stops eating to lose weight. In essence, they starve themselves. Thankfully, this can be treated effectively with immediate intervention. Sometimes, the best course of treatment within eating disorder treatment facilities where the underlying cause of the disorder is addressed first.

Food Avoidance

As children head into puberty, it’s not uncommon for many to put on a few pounds and think they’re fat. And once they are middle school, the need to look like their peers can be overwhelming. Avoiding food that they once enjoyed is a tell-tale sign of a potentially larger problem. There’s nothing wrong with them wanting to slim down and decrease portion size, but when they start avoiding their favorite foods entirely, intervention may not be warranted.

Excessive Exercise

In addition to avoiding their favorite foods, or not eating at all, children suffering from an eating disorder might start to exercise to excess. They may start participating in more sports at school or exercising more in their room. While some parents attribute this to growing up, there could be an underlying issue if exercising is taking up a large portion of their time.

Hiding or Hoarding Food

While some children avoid eating, others may start to hide or hoard food. Usually, this type of behavior is a clear indicator of bulimia, an eating disorder in which massive amounts of food is consumed only to be vomited up immediately afterwards.

Mood Swings

Children battling an eating disorder are often moody without provocation. They may become angry or tearful for no reason. This is usually brought about from guilt, lack of nourishment, and the underlying reason as to why they’re having issues. Understanding the difference between the natural tween moodiness and a potential eating disorder is crucial to recovery.