Eating disorder

A family member, in mid-teens, is:

- idle to the point of immobile, addicted to daytime TV and computer games, shuns any form of physical activity, resists or subverts activities that are offered and organized, makes no suggestions as to alternatives;

- chronically short of cardiovascular fitness (see above) 

- imho underweight, said bmi is 17 but I can't vouch for that and don't know the significance, but too skinny by half in my eyes;

- exceedingly fussy with food, skips meals, eats little when does eat, has been caught lying about taking meals (but will empty cupboard of anything sweet)

Question - at what point does natural teenage apathy/attitude/fussiness etc cross the line into eating disorder? And who would be the first point of reference for professional advice - GP?

All advice appreciated, particularly from those who have had to deal with it in others rather than themselves.


  • I tend to think the lying is a bit of a threshold. Can you elaborate on "fussy" - is it "fattening foods" that are being avoided, carbs, deserts, or all types of food?

    When left to his/her own devices, how do they construct a meal? Are they overly interested in the calorie content of a type of food? Have they started weighing, or otherwise measuring food stuffs? (eg: a given number of spoons of cereal, no more, no less). What is his/her attitude to eating with the family? Is there a set of scales in the house (and if this suddenly went "missing" - like under someone else's bed - would it be remarked upon?) How is he/she dressing - to conceal the body, or show it off?

    I dont think you've quite given enough information, but it can be very hard to spot in someone close to you. Mid-teens might also "just" be incredibly worried about pending exam results?? Boy/ girlfriend problems?

    Your GP would certainly be able to talk things through with you and give you some advice on what to look out for, but I wouldnt advise dragging said teenager along to see the GP just yet.

    Hope that helps.

  • ClagClag ✭✭✭

    A former flatmate of mine had an eating disorder (bulimia). She was hyperactive though. She would come home from work and go straight to her room, then proceeding to jump around endlessly and never stopped unless she was asleep. It was a nightmare - she'd eat in her car, loads and loads of food, then get rid of it all. She always denied that there was anything wrong - the only reason we found out was because we were really worried about her and had a look in her room. It turned out she was being seen at the Eating Disorders Clinic at the hospital so that was a bit better as she was getting help. Not sure about people with the opposite of this though.

    The one thing that always struck me with her was that her head looked far too big for her body. Some people are naturally thin, but she just looked wrong. It was like somebody had plonked a head onto a child's body or something, the rest of her was so thin. Her skin was quite bad and her eyes were always a bit bulbous also.

    It's possible if the person you're talking about is still at school you could also speak to the school nurse in confidence as they'll probably be experienced in this area and will also be able to offer advice.

  • Funny KK it reflected prettu much what I thought about a couple of recent thread starts, so I'm with you on this.

    Muttley, I've worked in an adolescent psychiatric unit which took a lot of referrals for teens with EDs both male and female.  You're welcome to mail me if you want to.  image

  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭

    I appreciate the annoyance about eating disorder threads. But I'm asking a specific question from the viewpoint of observing, not experiencing. I'm not attention-seeking, I'm after advice on how to proceed.

    My thanks to those who gave helpful advice. Flyaway, the warning signs you describe are not there so I suspect you're right to suggest holding off from the GP just yet. Maybe it's just an extreme case of teenage idleness. My hunch is that said teenager has heard lots about the dangers of obesity, knows that he's a layabout and has thus decided to eat less rather than do more. I'm a tad concerned that this is bordering on ED territory but not quite there yet ...

  • Mutley I cant offer any advice but a friend of mine is going through a similar experience with her son who is 18 I believe although if there were a 'stage' he is a few stages on,  weighs everything,  refuses to talk about anything food/weight related - has dropped a huge amount of weight but to be fair was a little on the overweight side to begin with

    I think what I am trying to say is,  get talking,  get some help and try and nip this in the bud before it gets to a stage that is more difficult to reclaim.
  • Muttley, I think you thread is a million miles away from those who want to use running as just another means of control.  Sorry if it came across otherwise.  image

    We got NICE guidelines for teenage EDs about 4 years ago, see here...  Your GP should be aware of them but I wouldn't guarantee it...

    What used to be the Eating Disorders Association is now  Have a look on their website.  They have a telephone helpline and you can email them too.  And they have a 'Help in your area' directory you can search.

    All the best.

  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭

    No worries, Nam, I understand the sentiments but was trying to avoid a possible hijack image

    Thanks for those links. I've checked them out. Pretty much confirms my thought that an ED is not yet on the cards but part of the way towards one has been travelled. I'll keep an eye on the situation.

  • Muttley, the first point of contact should be a GP and serious investigations. The teen's attitude towards food and other things could be a symptom of much deeper problems that could be physical and/or emotional.

    Hope things get better  and the teen enjoys life and more meaningful activities.

  • Muttley I have two teenagers and read your post with interest. My initial reaction was that you had described teenagers perfectly

     The difference for me is that those features are spread accross two teens who each display more 'normal' behaviour as well. 

     So your last comment about  crossing the line into eating disorder I understood. 

    1.) I thought one of mine might be veering toward an eating disorder. Meldy said about nipping in the bud?   I think we did. We talked and talked openly about eating disorders. If she was heading that way -she's not now. (She's still very thin, eats very little but healthily)

    2) Separately ..........the school nurse rang me to tell me that the other daughter had anorexia and was self harming........ other daughter was abroad at the time and this came as a surprise because she was not thin in my memory and she'd only been gone a week image  The self harming news was very alarming!    To cut long story short..... daughter was fine but her friend was self harming and anorexic.    School nurse had listened to concerns of a 'friend' making claims about my daughter and had reported them on..... the 'friend' had been primed by the self harming anorexic in order to draw attention to herself because no one had noticed her.....   which made me very wary of school nurse's intervention and judgement.   Probably an isolated case but don't leap to conclusions  nor rely on 'professionals' was this lesson 

    3) Two school friends do have anorexia. One has had counselling intervention and appears cured   (the one from above)  The other has regular admissions to a psychi unit and is fed with a tube and is very much not cured. At times I wonder if she will make adulthood.

    I mention all of these experience because I think it's a difficult area, I think leaping to conclusions and handling clumsily can make things worse but not noticing is a risk and it obviously is a serious problem for some. Good luck!

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