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Does my child need help?

Excerpt from “ When to Seek Treatment: A Parenting Dilemma” by Gerald Zimmerman. Healing Magazine, Spring Summer 2006

Warning Signs You Cannot Ignore

It may be useful to seek help if the child demonstrates one of the following for an uncomfortable duration, the intensity of which disturbs family relationships:

  • a child is irritable more often than not, and seems to be negative to others most of the time, argues, disobeys constantly, seems to be cruel to others and has trouble with forming mutually supportive relationships among family members
  • a child is extremely active and exhausting, has trouble sleeping, receives many complaints from teachers about non-compliance and has trouble completing assignments or finishing tasks of interest
  • a child is destructive of objects and is willing to override the rights of others, is aggressive and gets into fights frequently
  • a child is anxious and tense and may develop routines and rituals, which, if not completed, result in more tension and anguish, fussing, worrying and whining until the patterns can be re-established
  • a child is withdrawn and detached, sometimes in a world of his or her own, has little interest in seeking others for comfort and avoids others when approached
  • a child has thoughts and behaviors that indicate self-harm and destructive thoughts to self and others
  • a child has more difficulty than expected maturing between standard development stages
  • a child exhibits changes in behavior that are not predicted, based on what is expected at the child’s stage of development (e.g., weight loss or gain, sleeping more or less, avoidance of others, secretiveness, etc.)
  • substance abuse of any kind by a child is discovered, and the parent has recognized the formation of a habit.

These warning signs are not exhaustive but present a list of behaviors that may be worrisome to a parent. It is important for parents to be aware of what to expect at different developmental stages or where to go for help in recognizing deviations from the norm. The ultimate goal of interventions by parents and professionals is to enable the child to re-establish the ability to negotiate the challenges of development effectively and successfully.


divider Does my child have an eating disorder?

Questions from Michael Levine, Ph.D.

  • Is your child preoccupied with weight, food, calories and dieting to the extent that it consistently intrudes on conversations and interferes with other activities?
  • Does your child have an excessive, rigid exercise routine in which he/she has a need to “burn off” calories regardless of weather, fatigue, illness or injury?
  • Does your child withdraw from or avoid numerous activities because of weight and shape concerns?
  • Does your child express anxiety about being fat that does not diminish as weight is lost?
  • Does your child show evidence of self-induced (often secretive) vomiting such as: bathroom smells or messes; rushing to the bathroom immediately after a meal and returning with bloodshot eyes; or swollen glands that cause a “chipmunk” facial appearance?
  • Have you found evidence (wrappers, advertisements, coupons) of the use of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or products that induce vomiting? 
  • Have you seen evidence of binge-eating including hoarding and/or stealing food, or consumption of huge amounts of food inconsistent with his or her weight? 
  • Have you seen alternating periods of severely restrictive dieting and overeating that may be accompanied by dramatic weight fluctuations of 10 pounds or more?
  • Has your daughter experienced inexplicable problems with menstruation and/or fertility?
  • Does your child show extreme concern about appearance as a defining feature of self-esteem, often accompanied by contradictory, perfectionist thinking (e.g., either I am “thin and good” or “gross and bad”)?
  • Is your child pale, or does he or she complain or show evidence of lightheadedness or loss of equilibrium not accounted for by other medical problems?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your child may have an eating disorder that requires professional help.


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