Kids Who Won't Eat: How to Help Children with Eating Disorders

The Eating-Disordered Brain

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Robyn Lehr

Though cultural forces may contribute to eating issues, experts now think that these disorders stem from abnormalities in the brain -- and genes may be responsible. A study of twins conducted at Michigan State University found that eating disorders are 59 to 82 percent heritable. A child who has a close relative with anorexia is up to ten times more likely to get it herself.

More research is needed to find out which genes put a child at high risk. Until then, parents can recognize personality traits in their children that tend to go hand in hand with eating disorders -- most often, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and perfectionism -- and then watch for signs of eating-disorder behaviors, such as restricting certain food groups or obsessing over body size. "A child who tends to put a lot of pressure on herself might find that restricting what she eats helps her gain a sense of control over something in a satisfying way," says Dr. Bermudez.

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