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Children as young as 9 now anorexic

CHILDREN as young as nine are showing symptoms of anorexia.

Professor James Lock, from Stanford University in California, who was in Ireland to address health professionals at a conference, said that the average onset of anorexia is aged 12 to 15, but children as young as nine are being seen in the US.

He said: "The mean age seems to be going down for the onset of eating disorders."

He pointed out that bulimia used to be thought of as a disorder which started in 19 or 20-year-olds. But now the behaviours and the disorder are seen starting at 15 and 16.

He stressed that "early referral is essential" to keep cases from becoming chronic.

Professor Lock said self-starvation in a developing child should be thought of as a serious problem.

At the conference organised by the Lois Bridges Eating Disorders Treatment Centre, he outlined the benefits of family-based treatment, with parents and other family members of those with an eating disorder enlisted to help.

The conference, entitled Family Based Interventions for Eating Disorders in Youths and Adults, explored the importance of family-based interventions. Professor Lock is the director of the Stanford Eating Disorder Programme in California.

According to the experts at Lois Bridges, the family can be instrumental in both prompting and sustaining recovery.

The one-day conference was for health professionals who encounter eating disorders, including GPs, nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Lois Bridges is Ireland's first residential centre focused solely on the treatment of eating disorders.

The six-bed facility has come as a major boost to services. It is estimated that 200,000 people are suffering such disorders in Ireland.


The centre in Sutton, Co Dublin offers a residential and outpatient treatment programme to men and women over the age of 18.

The services include residential care, day care, after-care and follow-up treatment, as well as an assessment service.

The programme offers a seven-day-a-week intensive therapeutic programme to clients, with each programme tailored to the client's psychological and nutritional needs.

All clients are followed up for a minimum of a year following discharge to help ensure long-term recovery.