The Family Table – A Great Place to Detect an Eating Disorder

dinnertable_71704959We live in an on-the-go lifestyle time, and family meals have become rare. However, February is Eating Disorders Awareness Month and a good way to detect eating disorders in kids is to watch for specific behaviors right at the family dinner table.

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder can be deadly. Onset often begins in adolescence. Anorexia is the leading cause of death for women between the ages of 15-24. Affecting up to 24 million people, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

People do not realize just how serious says Barbara Greenberg, Adolescent Consultant at Silver Hill Hospital. “We see a very skinny high school girl or skeletal athlete, and think it is a passing phase. But by then, intensive professional help is required. ”

Greenberg goes on to say that with early intervention it is possible to prevent eating disorders from developing, and that eating regular meals together is a good place to detect emerging problems. “Does your child play with food or run to the bathroom often during meals? Do they suddenly limit intake saying eating a certain food is against their values or upsets their stomachs?”  These are warning signs we would not otherwise notice.  Another tip-off would be if your child always has an excuse not to come to the table at all, citing homework or practice.

“The benefits of eating together are manifold,” she says. “We find out about their lives and connect as a family. They see you modeling healthy habits – and you can spot any troubling behavior before it becomes a dangerous eating disorder.”

February is Eating Disorders Awareness Month, established to raise awareness about combating this lethal disease.  More information, including definitions and warning signs, can be found on the Silver Hill Hospital website in the post, “How Do I Know If My Child Has An Eating Disorder?”

Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D. is a professional consultant on adolescent issues at Silver Hill Hospital. She is the Teen Doctor for Psychology Today, a parenting expert for and blogs regularly for the Huffington Post. Dr. Greenberg is also the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent’s Guide to Becoming Bilingual. Dr. Greenberg has a doctorate in clinical psychology from SUNY at Stony Brook, and served as a clinical administrator on an adolescent inpatient unit at a private psychiatric hospital for 21 years before dedicating herself to private outpatient practice and consultation work.

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