Eating Disorders Are Taking a Bite Out of Children


December 9, 2015. While many of us were counting the days until winter vacation, British teenager,  Pippa ‘Pip’ McManus was counting her last breaths, before jumping in front of a train, ending her three-year battle with anorexia (Scapens & Abbit, 2017). She was 15 years old.

Pip’s struggles with anorexia began when she was just 12. According to her mother, Pip was initially obsessed with looking at herself in the mirror and asking if she looked fat. While her parents initially overlooked this behavior, Pip’s preoccupation with her diet and exercise, followed by her drastic weight loss eventually pushed them to admit her to the Priory Hospital Altrincham, which specializes in the treatment of mental disorders. Despite receiving professional help, Pip’s condition only worsened over time and she eventually succumbed to her disorder. Around the time of her death, Pippa weighed 55 pounds (“Priory’s care plan for anorexic teen Pippa McManus “inadequate,’” 2017).

Although we often associate eating disorders with women in their late teens and twenties, a study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality revealed that “hospitalizations for eating disorders in children under 12 increased by 119% between 1999 and 2006” (Harb, 2012). In a 2012 CNN article by Cindy Harb, psychologist Dina Zeckhausen links the rise in childhood eating disorders to the increased focus on obesity and diets.

Additionally, Zeckhausen states that children who are vulnerable to eating disorders often display a shared set of traits including: “high anxiety, perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive tendencies” (2012). Zeckhausen also states that children with troubled home and/or school lives are most likely to develop an eating disorder because they see food as one of the only aspects of life under their control. Zeckhausen’s statement is further explained by a University of Rochester Medical Center article on anorexia, which notes that individuals with eating disorders view calorie-control as a way of reducing stress, anxiety and helps in attaining a sense of control and accomplishment through visible weight loss (University of Rochester Medical Center [URMC], n.d.).

In response to childhood eating disorders, numerous incentives have emerged across the globe. For instance, Australian Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, recently enforced a policy requiring teachers, school counselors, and coaches to receive training in detecting signs of eating disorders. Additionally, he increased funding for the Ed Hope national helpline and the Butterfly Foundation, both of which are dedicated to helping individuals overcome their eating disorders (Brennan, 2017).

Similarly, many schools throughout the United States have sought to help students through in-school counseling as well as awareness and prevention programs (Olivero, 2015). Additionally, in a 2015 U.S. News article, Magaly Olivero provides suggestions for possible in-school initiatives, including: educating school staff on signs of eating disorders and broadening health curriculums and anti-bullying campaigns to address body-image issues and eating disorders.

The increase in childhood eating disorders depicts the importance of raising awareness on body-image issues among not only adults, but also children, as the future of the world’s youth is dependent upon it.

 

References:

Anorexia Nervosa. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/childrens-hospital/adolescent/eating-disorders/teens/anorexia-nervosa.aspx

Brennan, R. (2017, September 18). First National Policy for Treatment of Eating Disorders Announced. Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/first-national-policy-for-treatment-of-eating-disorders-announced/news-story/ef8f025b9fd376774d79f94962cf884f

Harb, C. (2012, August 22). Child eating disorders on the rise. Retrieved September 18, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/22/health/child-eating-disorders/index.html

Olivero, M. (2015, February 23). Tackling Eating Disorders With School-Based Initiatives. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2015/02/23/tackling-eating-disorders-with-school-based-initiativeshttp://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-manchester-39781995

Priory’s care plan for anorexic teen Pippa McManus ‘inadequate’. (2017, May 2). Retrieved September 24, 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-manchester-39781995.

Scapens, A., & Abbit, B. (2017, May 3). The devastating last words of a teenager whose discharge from the Priory ‘was not done well enough’. Retrieved September 18, 2017, from http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/pip-mcmanus-anorexia-inquest-stockport-12975723

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