Understanding Eating Disorders in Children and Teens

Mon 25th Mar. 2019 | 19.30-21.00
The Maltings Theatre, St. Albans AL1 3HL

Obesity and mental health problems are among the greatest health challenges for children and young people. Typically, they are talked about and addressed separately. This talk will focus on the complex relationship between mental health and wellbeing, bodily self-esteem and body confidence, eating disorders and obesity. In particular it will explore the potential impact of today’s obesity conscious world and the pitfalls it can present unless mental wellbeing and eating behaviour are considered together. Eating Disorders are often trivialised as vanity or a lifestyle choice, and at the other extreme cause alarm due to high profile deaths. The commonest pathway into eating disorders is through dieting, particularly when bound up with low body confidence and negative feelings such as anxiety, depression or confusion. Each of these factors is more common in those who are overweight or obese. Navigating the path between weight management, nutritional awareness and emotional wellbeing in a world where the thin ideal and weight stigma are the cultural norm can be a minefield! We will look at the science on risk factors for obesity, risk factors for eating disorders, and what we know about what increases or decreases risk. In particular we will focus on the influence that others, including parents, can exert during adolescence to help mitigate the impact of cultural influences, including social media. Effective psychological treatments are available for eating disorders and the majority of young people recover if they get high quality care early enough. Obesity is harder to treat once established, and prevention is therefore the priority. We will explore unhelpful weight management practices, the early signs of eating disorders, and how parents can help if they recognise their child is struggling with their weight, eating or body image.

Who is this event for?

This talk is primarily for parents of children age eight and above who are interested in increasing their awareness of this issue. It will also be of interest to all those who work with children and adolescents. The talk will not cover other types of eating difficulties such as fussy or picky eating.

What parents will gain from the event?

An understanding of the types of eating disorder and knowledge of how they differ from ‘normal’ concern about eating, weight and shape

Recognition of the early signs of disordered eating behaviour and how to respond

An understanding of some of the factors that may keep an eating disorder going once it has developed

Knowledge about the types of effective psychological treatment that are available

Knowledge of who to contact and where to turn if you need more help

About our speaker

Dr Dasha Nicholls is a Reader in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Imperial College London and works as a Consultant Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders Psychiatrist in London and Bedfordshire. Previously she co-led the Feeding and Eating Disorders service (FEDS) at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Her clinical work is concerned with feeding and eating disorders in children and adolescents, including early onset eating disorders, avoidant restrictive food intake disorders, and child and adolescent obesity. She has published over 60 research articles and book chapters and is actively engaged in lecturing and teaching. She is Past President of the Academy of Eating Disorders, was Chair of the Junior MARSIPAN group, is a member of the NICE Guideline Committee and Expert Reference Group, and is chair of the Eating Disorders Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.