Seriously, are we talking about eating disorders in kids who haven’t even seen their seventh birthday? Sadly — we are. Eating disorders are on the rise among very young kids and are becoming harder to detect. As a result, death rates are growing, too.

“One person dies from an eating disorder every hour,” Dr. Ellen Astrachan-Fletcher, executive clinical director of the Eating Recovery Center in Chicago, Illinois, said. “Anorexia is the third most chronic illness among adolescents — after asthma and obesity. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.”

“There has been a 119 percent increase in kids under 12 [being] admitted for an eating disorder in less than a decade,” said one recovery specialist.

As a psychological disorder that develops into multiple physical conditions, it’s one of the most complicated conditions to treat and cure. With over 80 percent of 10-year-olds saying they have dieted at least once, it’s easy to see how young girls and boys can become obsessed about weight — the first step in developing an eating disorder.

Psychologists suggest parents arm themselves with information and address their kids’ eating habits proactively, before a disorder develops.

Astrachan-Fletcher uses a very precise definition: “Eating disorders are psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or concerning eating habits that have a negative impact on the emotions, as well as the general functioning of mind, body, and spirit.”

Related: You Can’t Talk to Girls About Their Weight

Widely known eating disorders are:

1.) Binge eating disorder — frequent bingeing to the discomfort level;

2.) Bulimia — binge eating followed by purging via self-induced vomiting, laxatives, or extreme exercise;

3.) Anorexia — where food is avoided or heavily controlled.

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The newest category of disordered eating is avoidant restrictive food intake and disorder (ARFID), which is increasingly seen in younger children.

Related: What Teen Girl Athletes Need the Most

“I have heard of eating disorders occurring in the very young — six years old — especially with ARFID,” Astrachan-Fletcher said. “In addition, there has been a 119-percent increase in children under the age of 12 admitted to the hospital for an eating disorder in less than a decade.”

[lz_bulleted_list title=”Prevalence of Eating Disorders in U.S.” source=””]50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors, such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives to control their weight|13.5% of athletes have subclinical to clinical eating disorders[/lz_bulleted_list]

Eating disorders occur in all economic brackets, races, geographic areas, and genders. Although more females are diagnosed, the numbers of males are growing, as increased emphasis on muscular bodies with low body-fat ratios are glamorized by the media and advertising.

Because there is a stigma of shame, patients often hide their behavior — which means parents may be missing the signs. It’s important parents pay attention, however, as the dangers are real and the outcomes are growing more serious.

Patients with disordered eating often develop heart atrophy, where the heart is literally shrunken in size and capacity, according to Dr. Thomas Weigel of the Klarman Eating Disorders facility at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. Low blood pressure, low energy, low heart rate, pancreatitis, and osteoporosis are also common. Death occurs predominantly from heart failure, starvation, substance abuse, and suicide.

Related: The Top Online Risk for Girls (It’s Not What You Think)

Since eating disorders tend to run in families, possible genetic factors, like hormonal imbalance, are being investigated, but the hereditary factor may be psychological. Families that exhibit judgmental attitudes about body size and shape, and tend to shame people about body type, are common breeding grounds for disordered eating.

Parents should focus instead on a child’s abilities and behaviors instead of physical appearance. Children go through many body fat stages as they grow, and a new directive from the American Academy of Pediatrics proscribes commenting on a child’s weight, size, or shape. It suggests focusing on healthy eating and exercise instead.

Be alert to kids who exercise in the middle of the night, demonstrate avoidance or over-control of food, or wear unusually bulky or layered clothing.

Keeping an eye on what they look at and watch is also imperative.

“Social media leaves young people with the world at their fingertips and, without the right supervision or critical thinking skills, information can be interpreted in unhelpful and dangerous ways,” Sonia Schwalen, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Children’s Health Center for Pediatric Eating Disorders in Plano, Texas, told LifeZette.

“Skinny” groups for girls are common — girls brag about how little they eat, or how they purge after eating, and get instant positive feedback from peers. For boys, bodybuilding and sports groups encourage low body fat through restrictive eating and excessive exercise.

The move to diversify images is currently a hot topic on social media, talk shows, and in the new movie, “Embrace,” about body acceptance. Schwalen suggests parents examine the groups their kids join and watch for bullying or negative judgment about body size among friends and peers, in person and online.

She also suggests watching for other secretive behavior. Be alert to kids who exercise in the middle of the night, demonstrate avoidance, bingeing, or over-control of food — or wear unusually bulky or layered clothing, which may hide weight loss. Poor coping skills, social discomfort, and social withdrawal also often precede the illness.

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“Families should foster a safe environment at home where kids can talk openly about information they see in social media and get from their peers,” Schwalen said. “Families should balance their discussions about food, health, and body image with the idea that appearance is not everything. Strive to model healthy self-concept and non-judgmental communication at all times.”

Pat Barone, MCC, is a professional credentialed coach and author of the Own Every Bite! bodycentric re-education program for mindful and intuitive eating.