CHILDREN as young as eight are being sent for treatment for eating disorders in Doncaster, new figures have revealed.
More than 40 youngsters under the age of 16 have been referred to specialists to be treated for anorexia nervosa since 2008.
The figures also show that two eight-year-old boys were referred for specialist treatment to the children and young persons’ mental health services run by the Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust.
The disorder is more often seen in girls and they make up most of the 42 patients treated over a three-year period for which figures have been made available.
They highlight the growing pressures on children to be skinny, particularly due to the influence of celebrities they idolise and media coverage of what is deemed ‘beautiful’.
The statistics released by RDaSH are for young people who need support due to specialist eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
Some are also treated at Doncaster Royal Infirmary and the most serious cases may be admitted to an in-patient unit in Sheffield.
Most of the children treated between 2008 and 2011 were girls aged between 13 and 15, but there were seven youngster aged between 10 and 12 and five aged eight or nine.
The youngest patients in each of those years were boys aged eight or nine.
RDaSH provides support for the young people and they see patients either at home or in one of their clinics.
The numbers treated for eating disorders were: 15 in 2008 to 2009 (12 female, three male); 14 in 2009 to 2010 (12 female, two male); and 13 in 2010 to 2011 (11 female, two male).
Dr Mairead Lobban, consultant psychiatrist at Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust, who works with young people with eating disorders, said it was important that youngster sought help early on if they feel they had concerns over their diet and that parents should always offer support and contact their doctors if necessary.
She added: “A number of factors can cause eating disorders.
“These factors include social pressures, particularly the cultural and media pressures associated with body image, for example celebrity role models, that give a stereotype view of achievement and attractiveness.
“Other factors that may contribute to eating disorders in young people are struggling with the changes of adolescence or pressures at school or home.
“It is always better to seek help early with eating problems, so if you think your child has become over-concerned with weight, calorie intake, diet or has lost significant weight, please arrange to see your GP.
“It is always better to tackle eating problems before they become an eating disorder.”