Eating disorders are a serious, potentially life-threatening mental health illness that can have significant physical and emotional effects. It is an illness that does not discriminate affecting both males and females of all ages and backgrounds. Although often starting during adolescence, recent data shows that it is now becoming more common for children under the age of 12 to be diagnosed. Often, an eating disorder develops as a way for a young person to feel in control about what is happening in their life. It can be triggered by personal, environmental, psychological, biological or social factors. Although the focus is on food, weight and shape, there is often an underlying issue being masked by the eating disorder. There are many things that parents can do in the prevention of an eating disorder, but they do need to be aware of the warning signs.