Eating disorders know no barriers. It is therefore no surprise to learn of a young child living with such a condition. 

Young children can, and do, suffer from eating disorders similar to adolescents and adults, for example Childhood-onset Anorexia Nervosa and Childhood-onset Bulimia Nervosa, which have similar characteristics to the adolescent and adult types. However, many children experience child-specific forms of eating distress.   

Feeding and eating disorders of infancy and early childhood 

Disorders within this category present before the child is 6 years old and last for at least one month. Disorders include: Pica and Rumination Disorder.

Food Avoidance Emotional Disorder (FAED)

This condition generally develops in children between the ages of 5 and 16. The children do not hold any fears of 'getting fat', neither do they have a preoccupation with their body size.

Children basically feel so emotionally upset about something that they cannot eat.

Selective Eating Disorder

This condition generally develops in children between the ages of 7 and 11. Children with SED tend to be restrictive eaters in that they do not enjoy trying new foods and textures. 

Food Phobia

Another name for this condition is Functional Dysphagia. A child with this condition will have a morbid fear of eating, particularly lumpy food, in case of choking, vomiting and even poisoning. 

One of the suggestions for the materialisation of the phobia is that of a traumatic or upsetting experience.   

When a child refuses to eat 

Probably one of the most anxious times around food is when the child refuses to eat. Food refusal is most common in children between the ages of nine months and 4 years old.

There a number of reasons why a child might refuse food:

*  part of the child's normal stage of development where non-cooperation is the key feature;

*  may be attempting to seek the attention of someone;

*  may not like the taste or texture of the food given;

*  may not be hungry and prefer to play with the food.

If your child refuses to eat, keep calm and don't panic. It could be that you will need to encourage your child's eating via a number of new or different actions. 

Make time to chat at meal times

Meal times are a most important feature in family life. Meal times are not just about food. Meal times also allow for the sharing of information, family bonding, and the fostering of love. 

Offer a combination of new foods along with usual foods

Introducing new foods alongside the usual foods aids development of the child's palate. It helps create a healthy open-mindedness towards varieties of foods. 

Do not ever force your child to eat not withold food

It is said that young chcildren are biologically capable of regulating their intake to meet their needs. Therefore they will eat as much as their bodies require at a given point.

Forcing or witholding food can result in a traumatic experience for the child - which can lead to serious relationship problems between themselves and food in the future.