Medical professionals, along with parents and teachers, have a responsibility to be aware of the signs of distorted body image or disordered eating. Eating disorders present along a spectrum from “normal dissatisfaction” with one’s weight and shape to full disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Compulsive Overeating. Children with eating disorders often move back and forth along this spectrum and from one of these diagnoses to the other. Patients with eating disorders have extreme concern with body weight and shape. The symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa include loss of menstrual periods (or the failure to start menses is prepubescent children), refusal to maintain healthy body weight in relation to the child’s height, age and activity level, fear of being fat, and maintaining an actual belief that they are fat. Symptoms associated with bulimia are a high frequency of dieting, purging after eating by vomiting or use of laxatives, fasting or exercise. Binge eating takes on the opposite form of anorexia or bulimia in that the individual indulges in continuous overeating and becomes overweight, sometimes to the extreme of obesity. The psychological effects with binge eating cause the individual to feel ashamed of their eating habits, they feel guilt and even hate toward themselves for responding to their feelings or lack of self-esteem by eating. There are many outward signs that indicate a possible eating disorder. According to Dr. Sokol, individuals suffering from eating disorders “often lose hair, their skin becomes dry and discolored, and they develop other medical complications, such as dental decay, fatigue and structural abnormalities of the brain.” The Eating Disorders Program at Children’s also provides care for those suffering from Activity Disorders – excessive exercise and unrealistic fitness goals – and children who suffer from Feeding Disorders – the failure of infants or small children to adequately eat resulting in weight loss or inability to gain weight properly. “It is important to help youngsters find a healthy balance in their lives so that they can eat sensibly and develop sound attitudes about nutrition, appearance, and athletic achievement,” says Dr. Sokol.
The Eating Disorders Program provides a continuum of care including inpatient, day hospital and outpatient services. Staff at the Eating Disorders Program provides individualized treatment planning while also incorporating family treatment. Research shows that disordered eating often is associated with family, social and medical issues, as well as personality, mood, stress and other anxiety disorders. Taking this spectrum of issues into consideration, the Eating Disorders Program is made up of a diverse staff who offer nutrition therapy, activity therapy, treatment of eating disorders triggered by infections, chaplain services, and accredited education classes. This diversity provides capabilities for us to offer a truly individualized treatment plan to our patients and their families.
For additional information about treatment plans or services provided by the Eating Disorders Program, please call (402) 955-6190 or (800) 642-8822.