Brain Scans Show Differences in Young Children with Binge Eating Disorder

emergency room

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that pediatric emergency room visits due to mental health problems skyrocketed during the pandemic. In particular, the proportion of ER visits related to eating disorders doubled among teen girls. It’s likely that isolation, a lack of structure and heightened anxiety are all triggers for the increase in eating disorders. 

But is it possible that certain individuals have a predisposition for developing eating disorders? While everyone has different triggers, the latest research finds that genetics may influence the onset of certain eating disorders. 

Brain Differences in Young Children with Binge Eating Disorder 

Binge eating disorder is a disorder where people eat large amounts of food in one sitting and have little control over it. The disorder affects roughly 3-5 percent of the U.S. population. Those who binge eat are at a higher risk for obesity, heart problems, metabolic syndrome and suicidal thoughts. What researchers have recently discovered is that children who binge eat may be genetically hardwired to do so. 

Researchers recently analyzed the brain scans of 9 and 10 year olds with and without binge eating disorder. In the children with binge eating disorder, there were abnormalities in brain development in brain regions specifically linked to reward and impulsivity. These children had a heighted reward sensitivity, particularly toward calorie-dense, high-sugar foods like chips, cakes and cookies. 

What does this early research suggest? Certain kids may be hardwired to have binge eating disorder – it has nothing to do with a lack of discipline on the child or their parents. The question researchers don’t know is if this brain development is correctable. As with most other psychiatric diseases, binge eating disorder may be easier to treat in childhood. 

What are the Early Signs of an Eating Disorder? 

Eating disorder treatment is a multi-pronged approach. It involves treating any underlying mental health problems like depression and anxiety, removing ‘trigger foods’ and encouraging regular counseling sessions. Behavioral therapy in New Jersey is an effective tool for treating eating disorders.

So what are some of the early warning signs of an eating disorder? 

  • Aversion to tastes and textures 
  • Fear of stomach aches
  • Tantrums or mood swings  
  • Concerns over body image 
  • Excessive bowel movements 
  • Refraining from eating 
  • Reducing portions  

What are the Dangers of Untreated Eating Disorders? 

Whether it’s binge eating disorder, anorexia or bulimia, untreated eating disorders can have dire consequences. This is why it’s important for parents to know the signs of a possible eating disorder so that they can act quickly. Parents often blame themselves for the problem, but more often than not, these conditions are inherited. 

Some of the complications of an untreated eating disorder include: 

  • Damage to the cardiovascular system
  • Gastrointestinal issues 
  • Neurological effects 
  • Delayed puberty and growth 
  • Infertility 
  • Problems sleeping 

When is the Best Time to Treat an Eating Disorder?

The best time to treat an eating disorder is as soon as you notice that you or a loved one is showing signs. CTRLCare Behavioral Health offers comprehensive eating disorder treatment in Princeton NJ. We have programs for both youth and adults, allowing us to provide highly personalized treatment for all ages. Contact us today to take the next step in your health journey.