This report is part of FYI (Feed Your Instinct), an online family early intervention resource for parents who are concerned about their child’s eating difficulties, behaviours that interfere with weight or body dissatisfaction (or a combination of these). It has been provided because a family member has indicated that their child is displaying the above early warning signs which may indicate an eating disorder.
It is imperative to recognise when a young person may have an eating disorder, as it is a severe mental illness which has serious medical complications. Many eating disorder diagnoses are missed, delaying essential treatment and potentially increasing the severity and duration of the illness. Rapid weight loss, even in overweight or normal weight children and adolescents can be dangerous and requires medical assessment.
A GP’s role is critically important to provide an assessment of current medical risk. This includes conducting investigations to look for alternative causes and complications of weight loss or to exclude other serious illnesses. Eating disorders can be complicated to identify as investigations may be NORMAL in a child or young person who is very unwell. Therefore diagnosis is made primarily through obtaining a history and examination.
The aim of the medical assessment and investigations is to provide critical information which will help GP’s direct the young person and their family to access the right level of support via a care pathway. If there is some uncertainty about what is the right pathway, you can directly contact Eating Disorder Clinical Nurse Consultants at Monash, Austin and the Royal Children’s Hospital.
GP’s can refer immediately to a local mental health service via centralised triage for the local area if a young person is engaging in self harm or expressing suicidal thoughts, or if a young person has a suspected eating disorder and is medically safe. The mental health service can work collaboratively with GP’s to provide further advice, assessment, support and treatment.