Childhood eating disorders 'need to be recognised'

Services in the UK need to urgently recognise the problem of childhood eating disorders, it has been claimed.

A new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry identified 208 such cases in youngsters between the age of five and 13 between March 2005 and May 2006 - with more than four in five instances involving girls.

Researchers from University College London looked at monitoring data that had been collected by the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at Great Ormond Street Hospital Dr Dasha Nicholls said: "Our study shows there is an urgent need to consider the needs of children with eating disorders separately and not simply lower the age range of existing adolescent services."

Last month, Professor Peter Kinderman, Chartered Psychologist and Chair of the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology, supported calls for a review of medication being administered to children for behavioural problems.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Gillian Harris said: "Early childhood eating disorders are currently not well defined, with no clear evidence based intervention strategies available."

"Restrictive eating disorders are often confused with avoidant eating disorders and children subsequently given an incorrect diagnosis and allocated to the wrong service provision."

"The precursors to early childhood eating disorders can also differ from those of later onset eating disorders. It is therefore a matter of importance that childhood eating disorders are correctly defined so that appropriate intervention strategies can be developed."