Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. It is a form of self-starvation. Children and teens with this health problem have a distorted body image. They think they weigh too much. This leads them to severely restrict how much food they eat. It also leads to other behavior that stops them from gaining weight. Anorexia nervosa is sometimes called anorexia.
There are 2 types of anorexia:
Researchers don’t know what causes anorexia nervosa. It most often starts as regular dieting. But it slowly changes to extreme and unhealthy weight loss.
Other things that may play a role in anorexia are:
Children with anorexia are more likely to come from families with a history of:
Children with anorexia often come from families that are very rigid and critical. Parents may be intrusive and overprotective. Children with anorexia may be dependent and emotionally immature. They are also likely to cut themselves off from others. They may have other mental health problems, such as an anxiety disorder.
Most children with anorexia are girls. But that is changing. More boys are now getting it. The disorder was first seen in upper-class and middle-class families. But it is now found in all socioeconomic groups and in many ethnic and racial groups.
Each child’s symptoms may vary. He or she may:
Many physical symptoms linked to anorexia are often because of starvation and malnourishment. They may include:
These symptoms may seem like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital. They can help prevent future problems.
Parents, teachers, and coaches may be able to spot a child or teen with anorexia. But many children with it first keep their illness very private and hidden.
A child psychiatrist or a mental health expert can diagnose anorexia. He or she will talk with parents and teachers about the child’s behavior. In some cases, your child may need mental health testing.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment often involves a mix of the following:
Anorexia causes frequent health problems. It’s also possible for a child with this disorder to die during treatment. Because of this, both your child’s healthcare provider and a nutritionist must be active members of the care team. Parents play a vital role in any treatment. Your child may need to go to the hospital for problems linked to weight loss and malnutrition.
Anorexia and the malnutrition that results can harm nearly every organ system in the body. It can be fatal. It may lead to health problems with the:
Experts don’t know how to prevent anorexia. But spotting and treating it early can lessen symptoms. It can enhance your child’s normal development. It can also improve his or her quality of life. Encouraging your child to have healthy eating habits and realistic attitudes toward weight and diet may also help.
If you are worried your child has an eating disorder, talk with your child’s provider right away. Here are things you can do to help your child:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200