Eating disorders now impact kids as young as 9-years-old - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Eating disorders now impact kids as young as 9-years-old

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"It's not something I'd wish on my worst enemy because its something I know that I'm going to have to deal with for the rest of my life." That struggle 25-year-old Casey Hammond is talking about is her eating disorder.


Arkansas doctors are now seeing children as young as 8 and 9 years old with full-blown cases.


Casey is probably right - she will most likely deal with this for the rest of her life.  Research shows a third of eating disorder patients recover, a third relapse, and a third never recover.


From the red carpet to the runway, our modern media is bursting at the seams with images of super skinny celebrities.  It's an unrealistic and an extremely unhealthy ideal that is constantly on display for our children.


"That's why we have first graders not liking their bodies and dieting and over-exercising because they're facing looking outside of the standard that I'm supposed to look like."  Dr. Tracie Pasold, a psychologist who treats patients in the child and adolescent eating disorders program at Arkansas Children's Hospital says a recent survey echoes what she's seeing in her clinic.


42% of all first through third graders wish they were thinner.  51% of 9 and 10-year-olds say they feel better about themselves when they're on a diet. 


"The standards of beauty for females keep getting more and more unrealistic, and it's being communicated to a younger and younger population," said Dr. Pasold.


Casey knows that scenario all too well.  As a child growing up in the town of Monet, Casey sang and participated in pageants.  When she became a teenager she toyed with anorexia and bulimia, but it wasn't until after graduate school that she became a full-blown anorexic.


"This was such a control thing.  It was the one thing I felt like I had control over in my life," said Casey.  "I could control what I ate or what I didn't eat.  I could control how often I worked out, how long I worked out and so I just pushed it and pushed it until I got to the point that I was very close to death."


At her worst, Casey said she would only eat 200 calories a day.  She lived on water, coffee and salads with no toppings or dressing.  Her body became so damaged and weak she was hospitalized.


"A lot of people don't survive this and I was very close to that point.  I don't want anyone else to be there."


Casey is one of the lucky ones.  She started treatment and she got serious about wanting to be healthy.  Dr. Pasold says many patients don't survive long enough to reach that point.


"Eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality among all of the psychiatric illnesses.  Higher than schizophrenia, higher than bi-polar disorder.  It is a serious illness that needs to be paid attention to," said Dr. Pasold.


The sooner an eating disorder is diagnosed, the more effective treatment can be. 


Parents need to be on the lookout for children who have the following:


-A sudden refusal to eat

-Start making excuses to skip meals

-Begin cutting their food into tiny pieces

-Suddenly "go missing" after meals.


"I had probably lost 20 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas," shared Casey.


Casey is thankful her family and friends helped her find help.  Even though she's always going to be at risk for a relapse, she said it is a daily struggle that is softened by her desire to help others.


"God does everything for a reason and I really feel like I went through this so I could help others," said Casey.


Experts say certain personality types are more susceptible to eating disorders.  Children who are high-achievers, perfectionists and people pleasers are the most likely to be affected.


As a rule, Dr. Pasold believes parents need to avoid talking a lot about dieting.  They should never make negative comments about body image issues. 


If you at all suspect that your child is suffering from an eating disorder you need to contact your pediatrician immediately.


For more information on getting that help, click here to visit the National Eating Disorders Association or here to learn more about maintaining a healthy balance in your diet.