Eating disorders and self-harm are very hard to detect because they are often done in secret. Children struggling with an eating disorder or self-harm do everything they can to hide their behaviour.
Destructive patterns tend to start small and grow over time. Sufferers can become trapped in a cycle of pain without knowing what to do or how to cope – no matter how much they want to stop.
Although the word 'anorexia' means loss of appetite, this is not accurate. The appetite is not lost but suppressed. The self-starvation occurs in an attempt to feel more in control of one's life and provides a sense of effectiveness and achievement.
Restriction of food intake often begins with the elimination of high calorie foods or food categories, then expands over time. Other behaviours used to maintain low body weight can include exercise, self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics or appetite suppressants.
Anorexia nervosa can affect both males and females of all ages. While most common in girls and young women, as many as 1 in 6 sufferers are male (Goode, 2000).