4 Essential Signs that Your Teen Might Have Anorexia Nervosa

4 Essential Signs that Your Teen Might Have Anorexia Nervosa

Privacy for your kids and being able to provide care for them is a tough balancing act -especially when a dangerous but often well-hidden disorder like anorexia nervosa is involved. At a time when children start to demand more personal privacy, there is also a cheater chance for developing potential behavioral and mental health diseases than during the early childhood years.

Anorexia nervosa is the most dangerous mental health disorder – shockingly, there is an almost 20 percent chance untreated anorexia nervosa will result in premature death. Many people are familiar with the basics of anorexia nervosa, many of the early symptoms are unfamiliar and subtle. By catching the symptoms of anorexia nervosa disorder early, parents can give their teenagers the greatest gift possible – a healthy, recovered life free of anorexia nervosa.

With an average onset of age 18, the need for anorexia nervosa treatment may become apparent as young as 12 or 13 – there have even been cases observed in girls as young as 6 years old. Here are four signs your teen (or tween) may have a problem:

  1. Compulsive Exercising

Virtually every person with anorexia nervosa has a distorted body image. They, contrary to all evidence, think they are “too fat,” and that they need to take measures to avoid gaining weight. In addition to the well-known avoidance of eating, this can also manifest in excessive exercise.Of course, athletics and exercise are important at all ages.Anorexia-related obsessive exercise can put strains on the body, though.This can cause lots of medical complications in later years, affecting the knees, feet and other joints as well as the heart and lungs. Signs that exercise might be turning compulsive include exercising in bad weather, skipping social events to exercise, or trying to work out even when injured.

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  1. Food Rituals and Lessening Appetite

One of the earliest signs of a disordered relationship with food and eating is when a child begins to engage in foot rituals. There are lots of ways this might manifest, but they usually get more elaborate and complicated as time goes on. Some common rituals might include pushing foods around on the plate, refusing to eat foods if they touch other kinds of food on the plate, refusing to eat certain parts of the meal like more rare parts of the meat or the crust of a slice of pizza, or eating foods only in a certain order (meat, starch, vegetable, for example). Of course, most of these are innocuous on their own but combined with other unusual behaviors, it might indicate that your teen needs to consider anorexia nervosa treatment.


  1. Dieting and Counting Calories

Experts at anorexia nervosa treatment centers who treat teenagers as young as 11 years old have noticed that their clients often count calories obsessively and engage in diets. While healthy eating should always be encouraged, for growing children a balanced diet is essential for growth and mental/emotional development. Correspondingly, diets and strict caloric intake restrictions are usually not appropriate at that age.


  1. Continued and Excessive Weight Loss

This is the most obvious sign of anorexia nervosa (although weight loss can come from a variety of illnesses). As time goes on, people with anorexia nervosa will restrict their food intake to the point where they cannot maintain viable body weight. For teenagers and smaller children, it can severely slow or even halt growth and development. If weight loss continues for 6 months or your child is noticeably emaciated, don’t hesitate.

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There Is Always Hope

Anorexia nervosa affects almost one percent of the female population, and that might even be underreported. However, an anorexia diagnosis isn’t a cause to lose hope. There are many options for help, most notably from a professional anorexia nervosa treatment center. If you’re a parent who is concerned that your daughter may be developing anorexia nervosa, keep an eye out for these early warning signs – and reach out to her sooner rather than later.

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