Eating disorders now impact kids as young as 9-years-old

"It's not something I'dwish on my worst enemy because its something I know that I'm going to have todeal with for the rest of my life." That struggle 25-year-old Casey Hammond istalking about is her eating disorder.

Arkansas doctors are nowseeing children as young as 8 and 9 years old with full-blown cases.

Casey is probably right -she will most likely deal with this for the rest of her life. Research shows a third of eating disorderpatients recover, a third relapse, and a third never recover.

From the red carpet to therunway, our modern media is bursting at the seams with images of super skinnycelebrities. It's an unrealistic and anextremely unhealthy ideal that is constantly on display for our children.

"That's why we have firstgraders not liking their bodies and dieting and over-exercising because they'refacing looking outside of the standard that I'm supposed to look like." Dr. Tracie Pasold, a psychologist who treatspatients in the child and adolescent eating disorders program at Arkansas Children'sHospital says a recent survey echoes what she's seeing in her clinic.

42% of all first throughthird graders wish they were thinner. 51% of 9 and 10-year-olds say they feel better about themselves whenthey're on a diet.

"The standards ofbeauty for females keep getting more and more unrealistic, and it's beingcommunicated to a younger and younger population," said Dr. Pasold.

Casey knows that scenarioall too well. As a child growing up inthe town of Monet, Casey sang and participated in pageants. When she became a teenager she toyed withanorexia and bulimia, but it wasn't until after graduate school that she becamea full-blown anorexic.

"This was such acontrol thing. It was the one thing Ifelt like I had control over in my life," said Casey. "I could control what I ate or what I didn'teat. I could control how often I workedout, how long I worked out and so I just pushed it and pushed it until I got tothe point that I was very close to death."

At her worst, Casey saidshe would only eat 200 calories a day. She lived on water, coffee and salads with no toppings or dressing. Her body became so damaged and weak she washospitalized.

"A lot of people don'tsurvive this and I was very close to that point. I don't want anyone else to be there."

Casey is one of the luckyones. She started treatment and she gotserious about wanting to be healthy. Dr.Pasold says many patients don't survive long enough to reach that point.

"Eating disordershave the highest rate of mortality among all of the psychiatric illnesses. Higher than schizophrenia, higher thanbi-polar disorder. It is a serious illnessthat needs to be paid attention to," said Dr. Pasold.

The sooner an eatingdisorder is diagnosed, the more effective treatment can be.

Parents need to be on thelookout for children who have the following:

-A sudden refusal to eat

-Start making excuses toskip meals

-Begin cutting their foodinto tiny pieces

-Suddenly "gomissing" after meals.

"I had probably lost20 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas," shared Casey.

Casey is thankful herfamily and friends helped her find help. Even though she's always going to be at risk for a relapse, she said itis a daily struggle that is softened by her desire to help others.

"God does everythingfor a reason and I really feel like I went through this so I could help others,"said Casey.

Experts say certainpersonality types are more susceptible to eating disorders. Children who are high-achievers,perfectionists and people pleasers are the most likely to be affected.

As a rule, Dr. Pasoldbelieves parents need to avoid talking a lot about dieting. They should never make negative commentsabout body image issues.

If you at all suspect thatyour child is suffering from an eating disorder you need to contact yourpediatrician immediately.

For more information ongetting that help, click here to visit the National Eating Disorders Association or here to learn more about maintaining a healthy balance in your diet.