Anorexia: America's Hidden Epidemic

The number of children hospitalized with eating disorders has shot up 72 percent in 10 years.
2:44 | 04/23/14

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Transcript for Anorexia: America's Hidden Epidemic
And next here tonight, a special report from Dr. Richard Besser with a family coming out of the shadows to help to tell you about a hidden epidemic. The number of children hospitalized with eating disorders has soared 72 percent in a decade and we're talking about young children whose doctors don't always see what's happening. ABC's Dr. Richard Besser brings us the story. Reporter: Reagan and grace are twibs. Suddenly Reagan began rejecting foods she used to love. Exercising nonstop and complaining daily of a stomach ache. I took her to a doctor and he said she's a little on the thin side and needs to eat more. He didn't recognize how serious this was? No. She lost 30 pounds over a six-month period. I caught her hiding food. Throwing it away. What's the longest she sat at the table waiting to eat? I think 4.5 hours. Reporter: Her mother became alarmed but no psychiatrist would see her until she was 11. I was in tears. I said my child won't be alive at 11 unless she gets help. Reporter: She started calling eating disorder treatment centers. They admitted her immediately. We have seen how far the disease can go in adults. It surprise as lot of people, even doctors that it can also affect children as young as 5. And the warning signs can easily be chalked up to Normal child behavior. Picky eating, overexercising, in Reagan's case, she was jogging in circling inside her bedroom and running four miles a day. What would you say to a kid who says to you I have never heard of the disorder, what's an eating disorder? It's hard for someone to eat food and there's this like voice inside their head telling them not to. Telling them not to eat food? Yeah. How often are you thinking about it? A lot. A lot? Yeah. Is it getting easier for you or still pretty hard? It's getting easier. Reagan and her family are in therapy which has a 50% to 60% full recover ray rate within a year. They're hopeful. But if a parent is concerned, what do they do? Listen to Reagan's mom they know their child best. You need to seek help. If you're not being taken seriously, see another doctor. Thank you, Dr. Richard Besser. Up next here tonight, inside

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