Overweight teenagers who lose weight are at significant risk of developing eating disorders, and are often overlooked. A new study may change the way anorexia is diagnosed, and help more teens with the illness. The Pediatrics paper, has broadened the disorder criteria by taking away the weight requirement. Before this paper, anorexia was seen as a weight disorder, rather than a psychological one.
It outlines how the disorder is often overlooked among overweight and obese children and teens that lose weight, but are actually at a significant risk for developing eating disorders. Overweight children often get teased and discriminated against, and therefore are vulnerable. Because of this, they may engage in unhealthy behaviour and diets.
When obese or overweight teens lose weight, they are met with positive encouragement and approval. The paper explains how it’s harder to see that they have an eating disorder because we think they should be losing weight. 35 per cent of anorexic patients have a history of obesity, and because of this, their eating disorders go unidentified for about 12 months longer than in their smaller-sized peers. This can be very dangerous for the child, as the longer an eating disorder has time to take root in a persons mind, it is a much longer, harder battle to get rid of those habits. Furthermore, the months of unnoticed malnutrition can even cause more permanent effects such as brain damage, infertility or even death in 4% of cases.
Study author Leslie Sim says parents and doctors need to be more concerned with how the child is losing the weight, and keep the child’s attitude towards weight loss healthy.
If you or anyone else are suffering with an eating disorder, contact your local doctor or get advice at the Butterfly Foundation.