Parents Ask: FAQs about Eating Disorders

1. Aren’t eating disorders just about “control” or “attention”?

Viewing eating disorders simply as mechanisms for control and attention seeking inadvertently contributes to the misconception that people “choose” to have eating disorders. When overwhelmed, we all seek ways to feel more “in control” and gain support from loved ones. Children who suffer from eating disorders do not “choose” to let the disease overtake them. Rather, they generally start by choosing new behaviors to cope with their emotions, and these behaviors then spiral into an unhealthy and extreme relationship with food.

2. Did I cause this in my child?

Although essential in the recovery process, parents do not “cause” eating disorders. These disorders stem from a complex combination of biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal and social factors. If your child is battling an eating disorder, it’s more important to focus on what you can do to be part of your child’s treatment and recovery process rather than worry about the cause.

3. She’s not underweight, so she doesn’t have an eating disorder. Right?

Eating disorders are too complex to be reduced to one symptom, such as weight loss. The most concerning symptom of any type of eating disorder is the manipulation of food and weight in an attempt to manage emotions. No matter how mild or severe a child’s symptoms currently are, they could snowball into a critical situation if ignored. Seek a medical and psychological assessment if you have concerns.

Download the warning signs of eating disorders (PDF)


The tips in this section have been provided by Elizabeth Easton, PsyD, Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Services at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, CO.

For more information about the Eating Recovery Center, check out the video below, or visit them online at