Professional help needed to support young people with eating disorders

When a child or young person develops an eating disorder it is an incredibly distressing time for them and their friends and family.

Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 8:04 pm
Updated Friday, 4th October 2019, 3:11 pm
Support is available to help young people with eating disorders. Contact Childline’s confidential helpline for advice.

So often it can be difficult to know what to do and say, both for the young person suffering from the disorder and for those around them.

One teenager told Childline: “I've always had a problem with food and my appearance and weight but it's been getting worse as I've been getting older. Whenever I eat something I feel guilty, even if it's something healthy like a banana.

“I'm obsessed with exercise and I'm always weighing myself. People are always telling me how skinny I am and my CAMHS's worker told my mum that I look like I've lost a bit of weight but I don't feel skinny. When I look in the mirror I just see fatness.”

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The first thing I want to emphasise is that eating disorders are a serious mental health problem, which means it is important to ensure the young person gets proper, professional help.

As a parent it can be difficult, and you may feel powerless in this situation, where you want to protect your child and reassure them but feel like you’re out of your depth or that your child may not want you to talk about what they’re going through.

But there are so many ways parents, family members and friends can help a young person living with an eating disorder.

The most important thing you can do is be there for the young person and let them know they can talk to you about anything – without judgement or preconceptions.

You can help them with any plans they make for their recovery, making sure you become a part of their support structure as they come to terms with their eating disorder and start to work on their recovery.

Be patient though, because overcoming something as serious as an eating disorder can take a long time.

You can also help by encouraging activities that help them stay positive, such as supporting them to do something they feel confident with, like a sport or creative project.

It can also be worth letting them know that they can speak to Childline, and use our message boards to talk to people going through similar experiences.

For free confidential advice and support about any worries, children and young people can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or​​​​​​​​​​​​​​