Life in Balance

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Ottawa Citizen: Preteens increasingly vulnerable to eating disorders, CHEO research finds

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After reading this article, I was reminded of an individual in my own life who, when she first moved to Canada as an eleven year old, developed a severe anxiety in relation to eating certain foods. She was afraid of choking on the food. Her parents, not knowing what was going on, felt like she was just being picky, and did not think twice about the reasons behind such a behaviour. Luckily the girl in question recovered from her stress and adjusted to her new life, eventually letting go of the anxiety related to fear of choking on food. Oftentimes we cope with difficult situations in ways that remain hidden or unnoticed…hopefully this new research will help us all spot the warning signs early on.

Huard’s daughter was suffering from an eating disorder that researchers from the CHEO’s eating disorder research team are among the first to better understand.

Despite the extreme weight loss, Huard’s daughter wasn’t a typical eating disorder patient. She was too young, for one, and she didn’t have the body image issues found in patients with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Huard said her daughter knew she was too thin, but had an overwhelming fear of throwing up and a great difficulty swallowing anything, symptoms that developed after she was bullied at school. As a result, she was slowly starving.

But for patients like her, there could now be better understanding and earlier diagnosis of their illnesses, thanks, in part, to research done by a team at the CHEO Research Institute led by Dr. Mark Norris and published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. The research follows the inclusion of the new category of eating disorder — Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID — in the fifth volume of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5, released last fall.

The new classification, said Norris, will allow physicians to better diagnose and understand their patients, and also do more research on the illnesses. And, he said, expanded research will likely find children even younger than previously thought who are suffering from this little-understood eating disorder. It should also help find children who were falling through the cracks and not properly diagnosed or treated.

Read the full article here.

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