Anorexia nervosa is a disease; however, unlike many other conditions such as leukemia, HIV, or kidney disease, there is no blood test available to detect its presence in the human body. One diagnostic tool often used by physicians and dieticians is the SCOFF screen, which asks the following questions:
1. Do you make yourself sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
2. Do you worry you have lost control over how much you eat?
3. Have you recently lost more than 15 pounds in a three-month period?
4. Do you believe yourself to be fat when others say you are too thin?
5. Would you say that food dominates your life?
A "yes" answer to two or more of these questions indicates that an eating disorder may be present.
Keeping the above in mind, there is much that can be done to discover whether or not a family member has anorexia. Observation is the first line of defense for any parent. If an adolescent is losing a great deal of weight, or a young child is failing to gain weight at an expected rate, something is probably wrong, especially if she has body image issues or possesses a genuine fear of gaining weight. Other observable signs along the mental-health line are anxiety, depression, or inability to concentrate. At the very least, these children should be seen by the family doctor or a primary care provider. If other medical conditions are ruled out, anorexia should be considered. Remember, children as young as six are currently being diagnosed with eating disorders.
It is important to detect changes in diet and eating habits. This extends to breakfast, snacks, and most importantly, dinner. Most parents already know how key it is for a family to share dinner together, simply as a bonding or catching-up time with one another. Dinnertime is also an opportunity to watch a child eat. When we say eat, we mean the food needs to actually be consumed. A common anorexia behavior is the ability to not eat, while all the time making others think the opposite. A standard technique is to slip food to the family pet, or hide it in a napkin, to be thrown away later. Often, food is pushed around on the plate, to make it appear as though there is less of it at the end of the meal.
If anorexia is suspected, communication is a good place to start. Talk with the young child or adolescent about general subjects such as school, sports, or friends. These conversations may lead to related topics that may elicit more insight regarding feelings and emotions. Do not expect the child to admit to having an eating disorder, because the truth is, they rarely do. This is not a privacy issue, it is the secrecy and deception that is part of the disease. In some cases, the child may be forthcoming and agree to change her behaviors regarding food, get back on the right track and take better care of her health; but again, probably not.
Professional treatment is often required with anorexia. Many people find a good outpatient therapist and are able to engage in counseling while still at home. However, if real change isn't seen in a reasonable amount of time, inpatient treatment is recommended. Remuda Ranch at The Meadows offers age-appropriate Treatment Programs for children, adolescent girls, and adults.
Recovery from an eating disorder is possible. It's happening every day at Remuda Ranch at The Meadows. For additional information about the treatment of eating and anxiety disorders, please call to speak to a Counselor 866-390-5100 or complete a Take the Next Step form and we will contact you with the information you need.
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