Eight year olds treated for eating disorders in Doncaster

eating disorders in kidsMyths of eating disorders affecting mostly young women are being radically disproved, with recent figures from Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber (RDaSH) NHS Foundation Trust finding that children as young as eight are being sent for treatment.

According to a recent report, more than 40 youngsters under the age of 16 have been referred to specialists to be treated for anorexia nervosa in the past four years.


This includes two eight-year-old boys who were referred to RDaSH's children and young persons' mental health services to get the help that they needed, Doncaster Today reports.

However, the figures did show that of the 42 patients treated over a three-year period, the majority were girls.

Yet with the number of eating disorder sufferers continuing to climb in the UK, parents and health professionals are arguing that celebrity culture and biased media coverage of what is deemed to be 'beautiful' is encouraging young people to foster negative perceptions of their own body image.

This is leading to unhealthy relationships with food and could be having dramatic physical and mental health impacts, prompting the need for effective treatment and counselling services to tackle the root of the issue.

The statistics from RDaSH have been released to encourage young people to seek support for eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

It is also important for parents, carers and teachers to be more aware of the signs to look out for, especially if the child is too young to fully understand the impacts of their unhealthy relationship with food and body image.

Most of the children treated by the NHS Trust between 2008 and 2011 were girls between the ages of 13 and 15, however, seven youngsters were from ten to 12 years old and five were either eight or nine.

The youngest of these were boys, who, while less commonly associated with suffering from eating disorders, still deserve effective treatment and support from experienced professionals.

This can be within a centre or from the comfort of their own home, depending on the needs and preferences of the family.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Mairead Lobban, consultant psychiatrist at RDaSH NHS Foundation Trust, urged young people to seek help early on if they have concerns over their diet.

"A number of factors can cause eating disorders," she explained. "These factors include social pressures, particularly the cultural and media pressures associated with body image, for example celebrity role models that give a stereotype view of achievement and attractiveness."

Dr Lobban added that eating disorders can also be triggered by young people struggling with the changes of adolescence or pressures at school or home.
These can manifest in different ways and one way to bring about control can be to change their eating or exercising habits.

Eating disorders occur when this practice begins to influence an individual's mental and physical health, causing them to become preoccupied with their weight, diet or body image.

It is always better to attempt to tackle such eating problems before they develop into a disorder, as many have underlying root causes, which can be talked through or improved with professional help.

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