Would you believe eating disorders are now showing up in kindergarten?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the number of kids being hospitalized from eating disorders jumped 72-percent in the past decade! And a growing number of cases do involve girls and boys who are in kindergarten.

They’re kids like Sophie, a girl we read about who began starving herself at age 5! Her parents say they had no idea Sophie had a problem, until she complained of being dizzy. And when she was finally diagnosed with anorexia, doctors said she hadn’t gained a pound in almost a year! But normal weight gain for kids under 10-years-old is at least 6-lbs a year! 

According to eating disorder expert Dr. Julie O’Toole, when anorexia strikes people under age 12, it’s known as “early onset anorexia,” and it can look much different from the adult version of the illness. That’s because with adults, it’s generally easy to tell when they rapidly lose a lot of weight. But kids don’t weigh much to begin with, so it can be harder to see that they’re not gaining weight.

Also, Dr. O’Toole says that with adults, eating disorders come from social triggers – including abuse, divorce, or body image issues, but most kids can’t explain why they’re afraid of food, or getting fat. 

But in both kids and adults, anorexia is usually brought on by a need to feel in control of something, and often the only thing they feel they can control is what they eat – or don’t eat.

The good news is that kids with eating disorders tend to be easier to treat than adults, as long as the symptoms are caught early. If you’d like to go further, or you know someone struggling with an eating disorder, go to this site: NationalEatingDisorders.org.