While eating disorders can affect anyone of any age, young people are at particular risk. We know that the earlier an eating disorder is treated, the better chance someone has of fully recovering.
Bullying and eating disorders
Bullying is a particular risk factor in the development of eating disorders. Even teasing or throwaway comments about someone’s size can have a negative effect on someone who is vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. Bullying also doesn’t have to be about weight and shape – any kind of bullying can lead to low self-esteem, a key feature of an eating disorder.
There are many areas of the curriculum where topics related to eating disorders can be included. Personal, Social Health and Economic Education (PSHE), media studies, physical education, drama and creative work all provide opportunities. Including emotional literacy, building resilience and positive body image into lessons is particularly useful, as is covering media literacy and the way images are digitally manipulated in advertising.
Individual pupils with eating disorders will require particular attention to their educational and pastoral needs. It may be necessary to adapt the learning environment to accommodate reduced physical strength or concentration span. People with eating disorders can have a strong drive for perfectionism and this can be evident in their academic work – with excessive neatness, increased anxiety about making errors and a tendency to become inflexible in thinking. Handwriting sometimes decreases in size to minute proportions.
Signs to be aware of
There are some signs that may become especially apparent in the school environment, which might include:
- Social isolation
- Avoiding eating around others
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low confidence and self-esteem
- Obsessive and/or rigid behaviour
- Perfectionism and setting unreasonably high personal standards
- Changes to weight – either gaining or losing weight, or experiencing fluctuating weight
If you are concerned about your child. You can seek support from the following helpline sources.