Parents often worry about anorexia, but if their child isn’t underweight most won’t realize that an eating disorder has already started. Some experts have even noted an increase in “normal weight” teens being admitted to hospitals for eating disorder treatment. They can already be suffering from the life-threatening complications of weight lost without being overly skinny.
Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness characterized by excessive weight loss and psychological symptoms that include a distorted self-image and a fear of weight gain. In the early stages of the disorder a teen can have a normal weight. The key for parents is to watch for any rapid weight loss.
It’s Not Just About Being Thin
It’s very easy for anyone, including parents, to miss the signs of an eating disorder when you are only focused on if your teenager looks too thin. The biggest sign of trouble is significant and rapid weight loss – even if this loss hasn’t made the child underweight yet. In these early stages kids can easily fly under the radar because parents often think they are just making healthy choices. That’s why it is so important to watch for all the signs and identify anorexia early.
Emotional and Behavioral Signs
- Dramatic weight loss
- Preoccupied with calories, weight and food
- Refusing to eat entire food categories (ie. carbs)
- Frequent comments about feeling fat despite weight loss
- Develops food rituals (excessive chewing, rearranging food on the plate, etc.)
- Makes excuses to avoid mealtime
- A need to burn off their calories “taken in”
- Withdraws from friends and activities
- Shows concern about eating in public
- Denies feeling hungry
- Has limited social spontaneity
- Cramps and other gastrointestinal problems
- Menstrual irregularities (if post-puberty)
- Feeling cold all the time
- Sleep problems
- Dry skin
- Thinning of hair
- Dry and brittle nails
- Muscle weakness
- Poor wound healing
- Impaired immune function
- Dental problems
Don’t Wait to Get Help
If you begin to see the signs of unhealthy eating and believe your child is suffering from anorexia don’t hesitate to get the help he or she needs. At Adolescent Growth, we offer a comprehensive and individualized anorexia treatment plan to get your child started on their healing journey. Our goal is for your child to have a healthy relationship with food. Contact us today to find out more about our holistic treatment program.