National Eating Disorders Association

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Is this Eating Disorder?


My daughter who is 10 years old has been having complaints of abdominal fullness since August last year. It wasn't affecting her eating then. Started in October, the complaint seemed to have grown stronger and she wasn't able to eat her school snacks, but still finishes all her food. In December, it got worse to the point she started eating less at dinner and complaining she feels really full. Dinner was a big struggle, she still managed to finish all her breakfast and lunch. Up to January, daughter couldn't take any food at all, she says she feels really full all the time. She is also experiencing constipation, she also experiences headache when she feels really full. We have done all kinds of tests, x-ray, CT scan, endoscopy, ultrasound, upper GI test, blood tests, all have come back normal.

She was admitted to the hospital 2 weeks ago, tube feeding was started on her as she was malnourished and lost lots of weight over the months. She is experiencing severe symptoms towards the tube feed. We were told the symptoms should get better over time as she adjusts to the feed, but after a week, she is still feeling awful. She experiences burning in her throat, pain in her chest, stomach, fullness and sick feeling in her stomach, nausea but not able to throw up, she also burped lots. She felt really distressful with the tube. When offered the food, she is not interested at all. Doctor diagnosed her as eating disorder, but I believe there is still an underlying issue going on that wasn't detected by the tests, but what's going on shouldn't really stop her from eating, is what my daughter experiencing considered a form of eating disorder? Is eating disorder only limited to wanting to look good? She is not the type of girl who wants to look slim. I wanted to help my daughter but don't know how. Should I get a second opinion on her fullness feeling? She said the full feeling is not the same as a full feeling when you eat lots of food. When she has a bowel movement, she does feel a little better.

Any advise you can offer would help, much appreciated!


First here's the disclaimer about not being doctors and all that. I can't really give you informed medical advice and etc etc.

Having said that, I'm with you in still wondering if this is a medical issue. Not so much because of the symptoms you mentioned, which do indeed sound serious, but more that you didn't seem to bring up a lot of the psychological issues that often define eating disorders. Which you probably would have seen and been aware of, if in fact it was formal anorexia.

By that I mean, not simply a concern with the fullness and the physical symptoms she's having, but a noticeable phobic adverson to eating at all. Specific foods that seemed taboo, an obsession with the caloric content of foods that were offered to her, confused assessments about what she sees in the mirror, concerns about clothing which may or may not fit, obsessive daily weighing, looking at pictures of thin people, and making overt comments about feeling fat. Generalized personal dissatisfaction and a lack of self-worth. Along with losing patience and getting angry at the efforts of others to feed her.

If you were seeing a lot of that sort of emotional expression, even at her young age, then folks might be correct in suspecting an eating disorder.

But from what you've said, it doesn't sound like like you're been seeing much of that at all ?

This is not to say that people won't try and hide their EDs, because often they will. But if things get to the point where people have to be hospitalized, usually some of those emotional signs have begun to show themselves already, in ways that would have gotten your attention.

Even so, it wouldn't hurt to have her talk with a therapist who is experienced in eating disorders. A good one would know the right questions to ask in order to tease the real answer out. Much more so than a general practitioner would.

As far as how to help your daughter goes, expressing sympathy with her distress is the best way to go I would say.

Because none of this sounds enjoyable to her at all.

Bob J.

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