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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 07:08 GMT 08:08 UK
Child anorexia 'needs action'
Person eating
Images in the media have been criticised
Greater attention should be paid to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia among children, the charity ChildLine has said.

According to a new report by the charity, around 1,000 children and teenagers ring it every year because of eating disorders.

And many choose to go to a friend before seeking help from an adult.

Health charities estimate more than a million in the UK have an eating disorder.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the problem is getting worse among children and adolescents.

The ChildLine report looks at what lies behind eating disorders, finding callers raise family tensions more than any other issue.

They also discuss problems with bullying, school pressures and bereavement.

Angry behaviour

ChildLine 's chief executive Carole Easton said young sufferers must not lose hope.

"The cycle of denial and deceit, and frequently withdrawn and angry behaviour of a young person with an eating disorder, can almost seem designed to drive away those who care about them, leaving parents and friends utterly bewildered and at a loss as to how to move forward.

"But their love and support is essential in building up a young person's self esteem and bringing them back to health.

"Although there is no single solution to the tortuous situation an eating disorder can provoke, families and friends are the best allies a young person has.

"The most effective remedy is when everyone - friends, family, school, professionals, and counsellors - works together to ensure there is always someone to turn to."

Weight loss

John Wheeler, ChildLine's director of counselling for southern England, is familiar with eating disorders as the father of a former sufferer.

Nancy, now a 23-year-old student, developed anorexia at 16 and her weight eventually fell to six-and-a-half stones.

Mr Wheeler said his daughter's problem had become apparent on holiday.

"Nancy was getting very thin and was avoiding eating at family meals. It was a very frightening experience as a father.

"You feel very critical and guilty of yourself wondering what it was that caused this situation.

"It's very important not to blame yourself entirely for these situations. Anorexia is a complicated condition which are there are lots of causes of."

Sensitive age

Ms Wheeler said bullying by a teacher had helped trigger her condition

"That really did affect me. That combined with my sensitive age - I was at an age where I was just coming into noticing boys and going out.

"I can remember looking through magazines and equating being thin with being the best."

Nancy said she had started being extremely aggressive and defensive about the condition.

"Even my own mum I saw as an enemy trying to make me fat."

The BBC's Karen Allen
"Experts believe that over a million people in the UK have a disorder of this kind"

Anorexia 'has genetic basis'
07 Oct 01  |  Health
Birthday blues for anorexics
09 Aug 01  |  Health
Anorexia: A case history
30 May 00  |  Health
Eating disorders
20 Dec 00  |  Medical notes

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