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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Bridging the Gap Between Mental Health and Overeating

Fall 2013

Bridging the Gap Between Mental Health and Overeating

By: Sara Baker
Date: October 7, 2013

Overweight young boy
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Psychiatrist Shauna P. Reinblatt, M.D., began noticing that many of the children she saw in her practice also had problems with binge eating. “Anxiety disorders and worrying can occur when children struggle with their weight,” she says. “Many children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have problems with overeating, possibly because they both show impulsive tendencies.” This observation led Dr. Reinblatt to team up with social workers to form the Child Psychiatry Overeating Clinic (CHOC) at Johns Hopkins Bayview.

Many children who have received a psychiatric diagnosis like ADHD or depression find their way to the clinic because their parents have noticed a pattern of overeating or trouble maintaining a healthy weight. Dr. Reinblatt and social workers Ryan Moore and Jason Straub work with the children to get to the root of the problem. For example, “people tend to eat more when they are stressed or anxious,” says Dr. Reinblatt. “We help them to find a healthier coping skill.” The team works closely with each child’s family, since nutritional and fitness habits often are learned from family members. Over a six-month program, the child and family participate in therapy sessions and receive education on healthy eating.

CHOC also can help pair children up with a nutritionist. CHOC is one of the few clinics of its kind, looking closely at binge eating in children. It’s certainly a topic that deserves attention; the percentage of obese 6-to-11-year-old children in the United States increased from 7 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s an important problem, and we’re looking at it from a different perspective,” says Dr. Reinblatt. “When we intervene early, we hope we can make a lasting change in behavior.”

To schedule an appointment at the Child Psychiatry Overeating Clinic, call 410-550-0104.