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How Do I know if My Child Has an Eating Disorder and if so What Should I do?

There are three categorises of eating disorders. This article focuses on the most insidious and dangerous of them: Anorexia Nervosa (AN). It is now the third most common long-term illness among teenagers.

AN affects mainly girls, in the 14 to 24 age group. It has the highest death rate of all “mental disorders”.

Most parents don’t realise that their beautiful daughter has AN until it is well progressed. AN sufferers are sneaky. They make excuses around meal times, they adopt different diets, hide food for later disposal, vomit up their food after meals, use large doses of laxatives, exercise excessively to burn categories, wear loose clothes and other ingenious strategies all aimed at reducing food intake and burning calories.

AN can be caused by a number of factors. Studies show a link to genetics, nutritional deficiencies, cultural expectations on how we should look, lack of control over ones life and many more.

Usually the first stop is the GP. In my experience GPs are extremely intelligent people, with a vast knowledge of medicine, but ED is a specialist field. They will usually discuss referral options, both public and private. Good luck with the public system.

Do not for a minute think that when you finally jump through all the hoops of the public system that you can heave a sigh of relief that all will be well.

I was the CEO one of the largest government contracted residential ED services. After banging my head against a brick wall, I made the statement that I would not put my own daughter in my own service because of the egos, patch protection and bureaucracy within the DHB that was preventing proven best practice.

In the entire hullabaloo that followed, not one person asked me what it would take to change things so that I would put my daughter in my own service. If they had I would have referred the to the huge numbers of studies showing what is effective in treating AN and what really effective international clinics are doing.

I do need to acknowledge my amazing staff who did read the studies and shared my frustration at the barriers to change.

So what can you do? Well, a good doctor friend of mine took his daughter to Europe for the most effective treatment for his most precious gift. Be aware that private treatment is expensive. If you cannot afford this and are stuck with the public system, then read, learn, push, and demand. This is your precious girl.

As a naturopath I do work with AN clients.

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