Bullying is a difficult experience for any child to cope with. A child, either overweight or skinny, may begin to develop eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge eating disorder after their body shape or size comes under attack by a bully. A child may not want to admit that there is a problem, so a parent needs to pay attention to clues that his or her child might be suffering from an eating disorder due to bullying.
Signals of an Eating Disorder
Any bullied child may try to fake illnesses to stay home from school. According to StopBullying.gov, academic grades often decline when a child is bullied and his or her self-esteem decreases.
However, these tell-tale signs may signal that a child is specifically developing an eating disorder in response to bullying:
- Sneaking or hiding food
- Dressing differently like wearing baggy clothes to mask body shape
- Coming home from school hungry
- Eating less or more than usual (like binge eating)
- Poor oral health like: bad breath, sensitive teeth, and tooth erosion (due to purging and vomiting)
- Obsessively talking about skinny people or searching terms like “how to get skinny” online
How Can Parents Help?
A parent should let their child know that there is always a line of communication open. It’s best to be non-judgmental and encourage confidence and trust in conversations about bullying and resulting eating disorders.
Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating are dangerous mental illnesses that require immediate treatment. Options range from outpatient treatment for patients in the early stages, to residential eating disorder treatment for more serious cases. Both options can help teens develop healthy coping techniques and a new view on their bodies, food and their lives.
Other successful eating disorder treatments may come in the form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Family Therapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Nutritional counseling or dietary counseling can help a child learn to focus on healthy eating while learning to leave behind dangerous eating patterns.
Beware of Suicidal Behaviors
Along with new eating habits and disorders, there are other clues that a child needs professional help. He or she may go as far as contemplating — or attempting — suicide. The major warning signs of suicidal thoughts and behaviors are:
- Showing an interest in death
- Depression, sadness, withdrawal, loss of interest, sleeping problems
- Substance use or abuse
- Reckless behaviors
- Statements eluding to the fact that life may be better without him or her
- Giving away cherished belongings (like he or she is saying ‘goodbye’)
- Online searches including terms like “how to kill yourself painlessly”, “how to kill yourself with household items”, or “how to kill yourself peacefully“
According to StopBullying.gov, “Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in our national network. These centers provide 24-hour crisis counseling and mental health referrals.” Call 911 if the child is in immediate danger.
About the Author: Chris is a writer living in Arizona. When not writing, he enjoys cooking, reading, and watching Science Fiction movies.