Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Eating Disorders

Does My Child Have an Eating `Disorder`?

10/05/2009

Question:

My 11 year old daughter who was born 6lbs and healthy, gradually gained weight from her first 6wk checkup and throughout her childhood. Doctors acknowledged she was heavier for her age, we tried what was recommended -limiting, calories, sweets, more exercise- but still she gained. When she turned 10 her doctor said she hadn’t gained any weight in two years (which would’ve been at the rate she was going before about 15lbs per yr,) she was 120lbs then, her doctor said she showed signs of diabetes (runs in family) a leathery line around her neck, and she needed to be careful because she was high risk to get it.

So we have been trying to keep her healthy by giving flavored waters, sugar free snack on occasions when the other kids get snacks, more salads every day, light dressing, less calories, and more vegetables, along with more exercise.

At that appointment when she was 10 years old I mentioned we had found some empty food containers in her room/closet hiding, and I thought she had an eating problem, but they dismissed it and just said "give her more fiber.” But her eating hasn’t stopped, neither has the sneaking food, which we suspect has been probably going on a few years.

She still sneaks late at night and gets cans of corn, frozen dinners, leftovers-- once I had caught her while coming downstairs, she was in the fridge, sitting, eating leftovers right from the pan with her hands, as if she was ‘out of control’ eating very fast, mouthfuls of food, like she hadn’t eating in a year! When I asked her “what do YOU think you’re doing? Why are you eating like that?” She denied the whole thing. Every time we catch her doing something she’ll say that she didn’t do it, and I have tried to ask her, “Why do you think you feel hungry like that? why do you feel you need to sneak food?” She said she doesn’t know, she was bored, I wanted her to write it down and tell me why she feels the way she does, but so far she hasn’t.

I feel she has an eating disorder. I looked up ‘binge eating disorder’ and it sounds similar, she always eats fast, I have to constantly remind her to slow down, eat fruit if you feel you want to sneak food, but now she weighs 160lbs,i believe her ‘sneak eating’ is out of control. My family thinks she has control and knows right from wrong, how do I get them to see it is an actual disorder? That she can’t help on her own? And where do I begin for some treatment and weight management for her?

I know she will probably need to see a therapist and nutritionist, but who first? And what can I do to keep her from sneaking the regular food from our kitchen when we are not looking? I heard topamax helps binge eating disorder; can this help her as well with other treatments? I also have graves disease and thyroid disorder runs in family, she is getting some blood work done. Is there anything comprehensive you can think of she might need, since this may a two part problem?

I also heard low levels of certain hormones cause binge eating, is this true? Can it be treated? She also used to sleep walk at night when she was younger, she hasn’t done this in a long while, and can this be related to anxiety? Or depression?

Answer:

Your daughter shows signs and symptoms of an eating disorder.   I do not know what state or city you live near.  There are two good referral online eating disorder treatment sites: One through the National Eating Disorder Association has a referral listing for cities and states around the country.  Also try the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center at http://www.edreferral.com/.

If you life in Central Ohio, Nationwide Children's Hospital has begun to develop programs for both overeating through the department of healthy weight, and also have just begun for the first time to develop outpatient eating disorder treatment.  You could call to get an assessment through Dr. Heather Gurthrie there.

Also, The Center for Balanced Living (http://www.thecenterforbalancedliving.org/) in Worthington, Ohio has family programs that could support you via the free support groups on the first and third Tuesdays of each month and the Family Education Programs. These help parents know what to do to help understand the illness and to learn tools to help.

For more information:

Go to the Eating Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Laura  L Hill, PhD Laura L Hill, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University