Edit ModuleShow Tags

Does My Child Have Bulimia?

Recognize the warning signs of this eating disorder and find treatment

Eating disorders are a physical and mental health issue that affects both boys and girls. If you think your child suffers from bulimia, then she needs professional treatment. 

What is bulimia?

Bulimia is an eating disorder in which the patient is caught in a repeated cycle of uncontrolled eating, followed by some form of purging. Purging techniques can include self-induced vomiting, overuse of laxatives or diuretics, or excessive exercise. Bulimia is a serious condition that can damage organs in the body and even be life threatening if left untreated. A childhood trauma or being bullied about weight can trigger this eating disorder, and it can coexist with drug or alcohol addictions.

Although many people associate bulimia with teenage girls, Christopher Willson, clinical director of the outpatient eating disorder program Dine in Philadelphia, sees an increase in boys with bulimia and has seen patients as young as 10. He urges parents not to dismiss potential symptoms as “just a phase” or “to take for granted that a child is too young to have an eating disorder or won’t have this problem because he is male.” He stresses being aware of and sensitive about eating issues. 

Warning signs of bulimia

Although not every child with bulimia will exhibit all the possible symptoms, warning signs include:
• Uncontrollable binge eating or overeating when stressed
• Frequent bathroom use after meals
• Guilt or shame about eating
• Depressive moods or mood swings
• Repeated weight fluctuations 
• Obsessive concern about weight
• Swollen glands
• Menstrual irregularities 
If your child has any of these symptoms, seek the help of an eating disorder specialist to diagnose or rule out bulimia. 

Treatment for bulimia

According to Jessica Feldman, director of the Renfrew Center of Radnor, a residential eating disorder treatment facility, “Recovery is a staged process that can take a long time and should not be attempted as a do-it-at-home endeavor.” Depending on the severity of the bulimia, an eating disorder specialist will choose from the following stages of care:
• Round-the-clock residential care
• Treatment for several hours per day, with the patient returning home 
• Intensive outpatient treatment a few days per week
• Outpatient therapy sessions

Many medical insurance carriers cover eating disorder treatment, and Medicaid may cover treatment for patients without insurance. If a center does not accept Medicaid, it may recommend a community-based mental health care provider who can manage a child’s bulimia treatment.

At all levels of care, treatment includes nutritional and mental health therapy for the patient and support for family members so they know what they should be doing at home. “The family works on being positive role models about eating and body image,” says Feldman. 

John from Philadelphia reports that his daughter Alex (names have been chang-ed) greatly benefited from her day treatment program “once she saw other people dealing with problems similar to her own and realized it was not just her with this problem.” 

Likewise, John notes that the family support therapy provided by the treatment center connected him with a community of other families who understand life with a child who has bulimia. The group’s support helps him navigate the ways in which bulimia has drastically changed his life and his daughter’s. 

Successful treatment involves cooperation among the patient, family and eating disorder professionals. Parental vigilance is key to recognizing the warning signs of bulimia and taking action. 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags

Archive » Tweens & Teens

What to do with the kids on a snow day

How to Set Goals for Your Kids

Clear Aligners a Popular Alternative to Braces

New technology is making straightening teeth less visible, faster

How to Teach Your Kids to Save Money

Tips for When Mom's Under the Weather

Tips for taking care of the family when mom needs to take a sick day.

11 Ways to Keep the Family Active

Where to find activities to keep your family fit, from Cape May to King of Prussia and from Doylestown to Wilmington.

Elect to Learn: Raise Your Family’s Civic Awareness

Civic awareness can be built upon knowledge of political processes.

What I Thought I Knew vs. What I Now Know About Raising Adopted Kids

A mother shares lessons learned from raising adopted children.

Home Alone

Giving kids the responsibility to stay home alone can be a positive, confidence-building experience — a rite of passage.

10 Ways Being Tired Hurts Children

What damage can overtiredness cause your child? Are sleep aids safe for children?

How to Savor the Moments as Your Child Grows

Learn how to slow down and enjoy each phase of childhood as your child grows.

Dental Care for Each Age & Stage

Learn how to keep your child's teeth healthy from the toddler years through the teens.
Edit ModuleShow Tags