A mother has shared the disturbing story of her 8-year-old daughter developing anorexia nervosa during kindergarten.
Going by the name of Anne, the mother said her daughter Sophie told her one night that she was “hungry all the time and can’t eat” because there was a “voice in [her] head telling [her] not to eat.”
At the time, her parents did not suspect anything was wrong with her, as her height and weight seemed normal on the pediatrician’s growth chart. But Sophie admitted she threw out her school lunches and exercised on the monkey bars during recess.
They said they knew she was a “perfectionist,” but didn’t know it grew to a deadly extent, as they never suspected a child so young would have an eating disorder.
Unfortunately, the cases of young children becoming anorexic are far more common than one would imagine. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality said there has been a 72 percent rise in the number of children with eating disorders in the past 10 years.
Although it is increasing steadily, researchers don’t know what triggers it.
Dr. Julie O’Toole, founder of the Kartini Clinic which treats children and young adults with eating disorders, said the science isn’t there yet.
They do know that the illness is highly inheritable.
The Kartini Clinic revealed that 56 to 70 percent of those with anorexia have family members with an eating disorder or anxiety.
Anne and her husband are not aware of Sophie’s hereditary history, however, because she was adopted.
She is now considering it might be from an over-interpretation of a suggestion from her teacher.
“Her memories are that her teacher had told her she had to eat healthy,” Anne said. “She’s the kind of kid who reads between the lines of all the rules and follows them to the letter better than anyone else.”
She also said that Sophie was always an anxious child.
Once she was officially diagnosed, Sophie hadn’t gained weight for 10 months and dropped from the 60th to the 19th percentile on weight charts.
Now, Sophie and her parents are working to get her to develop normal eating habits.
“We created an environment where eating was required,” Anne said.
At 8 years old, Sophie is doing better and has not shown signs of anorexia.