The causes of anorexia in kids cannot be pinned to any one thing specifically, but there are certainly a lot of contributing factors. The following are some of the most prevalent things that lead to children choosing anorexia.
Increased exposure to TV commercials. While this sounds fairly vague, the fact is that years ago, before television was as big of a thing, there were hardly any cases of anorexia amongst children and teens. However, today, children are exposed to more commercials and more shows with super thin actors, and characters. The promotion of junk food and the popular super-thin images of actors, actresses, and even cartoon characters have made occurrences of anorexia in kids rise. They are influenced by the things they see on TV, and seeing high fat, low quality foods, and really thin models makes their images of self different.
Magazines. The fact is that there is this idea that models are the beautiful people, and the fashion models put in magazines are still abnormally thin. When a kid looks at these magazines they can’t help but think that in order to be beautiful they need to be thin. The message is clear: “thin is beautiful”, and while there is a healthy thin, too many kids do not see options for themselves to be a healthy, beautiful thin, and so they resort to extreme measures like eating disorders.
Lack of parental control, guidance and example. This is one of the huge factors that lead to anorexia in kids. Parents often do not realize the impact they are having on their child when they are constantly on a diet, criticizing their own body image, and talking about how they wish they were thin. Even thin parents comment on how “fat” they feel or look. What do you think this tells the children? That to be loved, accepted, and beautiful they have to be super skinny. And so the habits that mom and dad have rub off, and children turn to self-starvation in order to become someone acceptable and lovable.
Lack of family meals. This may seem like an odd factor that would lead to anorexia in kids, but the fact is with the pursuit of affluence and wealth hitting the top of many people’s priority list, things like eating as a family and spending time doing healthy things like activities, being out of doors, etc. are dwindling. This means more kids are fending for themselves at meal time, eating in their rooms, watching television during dinner etc. instead of practicing good eating habits. In addition to that, with parents gone more, there is often an increased psychological stress which is an important underlying cause of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa.
If you are worried your child might be suffering from an eating disorder, it is important to try and help them correct their idea of what the body should look like, and start on the path toward healthy eating habits. In addition to that, you may need to get outside help from a doctor. Ask yourself the following questions to determine the severity of the situation, and whether or not you should seek help:
- Is your child limiting her/his food intake?
- Is your child losing weight?
- Is your child claiming unreasonably that she/he is too fat? (in some cases kids are, but it is still important to handle the subject carefully)
- Is he/she talking about dieting and focusing on calories and fat? (this is not normal in kids)
- Is your child becoming obsessed with exercise?
- Is your child part of a family with a history of eating disorders?
- Has your child started to vomit regularly?
If your child has two or more of these symptoms, you should seek medical help, and intervene as quickly as possible before an eating disorder affects other areas of their health and significantly damages their body.