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Concerned about a teenager?


Dieting is very common amongst teenagers (especially girls) and some may even do things like skipping meals, making themselves sick, or even taking diet pills in an attempt to control their weight.  However, those who are developing real problems tend to be much more strict about their diets, for example only eating a very narrow or 'safe' set of foods, and showing very little flexibility in their diet.  They may also show signs of distress or panic if they ever do break the diet or are in a situation where they might have to eat food that is not on their 'safe' list.

Weight loss

Weight loss is unfortunately also quite common as so many teenagers do diet.  However, in general teenagers under 16years and of course younger children should not be losing weight unless they really need to do so – and in this case a GP or dietician should supervise it.  Weight loss should always be taken seriously, so if you are concerned, do seek advice.

Changes in mood

Changes in mood are also a common sign of eating disorders.  Often children who develop problems have previously been very helpful, kind and polite.  The development of an eating disorder can transform them into quiet, withdrawn and depressed children, who may react in defensive, angry or even violent ways to your enquiries about their eating.  They may also become very secretive, or lie to you about what they have and have not eaten.  It is important to remember that these changes are caused by the eating disorder, they are not part of your child’s character, and are a sign of the distress that s/he is feeling. Other signs may be evident as well that all is not well.  Many children exercise excessively, and this may well be done in secret, perhaps before you get up in the morning, or after you go to bed at night. You might find your child making excuses for not eating or trying to avoid meals or you might realise that they always go to the bathroom directly after eating.  Your child may show other physical signs, such as being constantly cold, or having difficulty sleeping.  In girls, periods may stop, or not start.  Overall the rule is that if you are concerned, do seek further advice.

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