Awareness of eating disorders in children and teenagers
New research shows how the pandemic has raised awareness of eating disorders in children. Here you’ll find support, advice, and warning signs to look out for.
Teenagers have turned to harmful coping mechanisms to manage their mental health during the pandemic, including controlling or restricting their food intake.
How to talk to your children about eating disorders
Eating disorder recovery
With the right eating disorder support and guidance, it’s possible to regain health and wellbeing.
Find the right treatment
It’s crucial to find the treatment that works best for you, as it can help you develop healthy, balanced eating patterns in the long term.
An important part of finding suitable treatment is first speaking to your doctor. They may be able to refer you to specialist eating disorder support for both your child and your family.
There are specialist charities that can help. You can find details for Beat, the UK's eating disorder charity, at the bottom of this page. Young Minds, the mental health charity, also has lots of content around anorexia and other eating disorders.
Encourage a healthy relationship with food
Even though food itself isn’t the problem with an eating disorder, developing a healthier relationship with food is an important step to recovery. Here are our tips for reducing mealtime anxiety for everyone:
- Prepare for meals by letting the family know when food will be served.
- When you’re eating a meal, divert attention by talking about the events of the day, or what’s been on TV.
- Reduce added pressure on your child by taking greater control of their food; for example, by offering less choice.
- Distracting your child after eating could reduce the urge for excessive exercise or purging (vomiting or using laxatives). So plan to do something afterwards, like watching a moving, playing a board game or going out.
Watch out for triggers
It’s important that your child learns how to cope and manage any triggers that arise in their everyday life. As part of their support network, be mindful that topics around food, body image and dieting may naturally come up in conversation. Where you can, avoid talking about these topics at mealtimes.
It’s critical that your child finds a coping strategy to ease any discomfort. For example, if you can identify the events, people and situations that trigger negative emotions, you can help to avoid that trigger or prepare a way to handle it in future.
How Bupa can support you with eating disorders
Helpful external resources
Beat is the UK's eating disorder charity. If you’re concerned that someone you love might be suffering from an eating disorder, you can contact them online or by phone, 365 days a year. They also run support groups.
Eating disorder support and information from Bupa's experts
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† Teens Minds: Living Through a Pandemic and Beyond
Bupa-commissioned report by PCP Research, surveying 1,000 UK teenagers aged 13-19, and 1,000 of their parents, between 22 October and 3 November 2020.
‡ NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence)