What to do if I suspect that my child or teenager student has an eating disorder?

Recommendations for the family

  • Do not minimize risk indicators (for example: progressive weight loss, isolation, repetition of loose clothing, etc.).
  • Avoid the use of punishments, threats or manipulations. We must bear in mind that it is a disease, not a behavior that the teenager has chosen.
  • Do not express yourself about the weight of others in a pejorative way, especially if it concerns your teenager child.
  • Avoid making criticisms about weight and food, encouraging the affected teenager to feel supported.
  • Avoid using food as a reward or punishment, or make food a recurring topic of conversation.
  • Avoid diets that are unnecessary or that are not prescribed by a specialist.
  • If it is detected that the teenager has difficulties with feeding, do not focus only on the food, since it is most likely a more global issue.
  • If the teenager has an obesity problem, confront it emphasizing that what worries is his health and not his appearance.
  • Search professional help!

Recommendations for the school

Schools are a key environment to detect early warning signs of behaviors associated with eating behavior disorders (EBD). In this regard, we recommend:

  • Be alert for warning signs that may be observed in the school environment and / or after-school activities. At lunchtime, the monitors and those in charge of the playgrounds and school canteens can detect inappropriate behaviors regarding food, such as: throwing away the food, returning it, going quickly to the bathroom after the meal… Also, in leisure and sports practice spaces these behaviors can be observed, either through the monitors or the peer group.
  • Partners can be critical for the detection of an EBD. The teenager affected by a disorder of eating behavior tends to move away from his peer group progressively, since most of his encounters are around leisure activities and meals. They can also more easily detect other behaviors, such as vomiting or self-injury. Therefore, it is necessary to encourage help among students so that they communicate to a reference adult (teacher, tutor, monitor, family member…) their observations about it.
  • Address the peers of the school closest to the allegedly affected student to know as directly as possible conduct that may be a subsidiary of a disorder of eating behavior.
  • If any symptom is detected or suspected, you must approach the allegedly affected student in order to help him or her to be aware of their possible eating disorder behavior and / or any discomfort derived from it. In this sense, we must remember that teenagers find it difficult to address their referring adults (parents, teachers, monitors…).
  • Once the suspicions have been confirmed, the parents of the student allegedly affected by a feeding disorder should be contacted to compare the observations made in the school with those that the parents have been able to make in the family.
  • It is necessary for the school team to guide and advise parents about where they can find more information about EBDs and where they can go to receive professional care.
  • From school, it is necessary to promote collaboration between the different professional groups that are in contact with teenager students, so that they can act as prevention and detection elements of the EBD (teachers, teachers, monitors, trainers, school psychologists, doctors , pharmacists, etc.), as well as the communication of these with families, with the aim of making possible the motto: among all, dialogue is possible.

More information: “Clinical Area”, “Disorders related to nutrition and eating behaviors”.

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