Anorexia nervosa in children and adolescents

What is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa, a form of self-suicide, is an eating disorder characterized by a distorted body image that leads to limited nutrition and other behaviors that prevent the person from gaining weight. Anorexia nervosa is sometimes referred to as anorexia.

What causes childhood anorexia nervosa?

The causes of childhood anorexia are not known. Anorexia usually starts with an “innocent” diet but gradually develops into extreme and excessive weight loss. Social attitudes towards the appearance of the body, family influences, genetics, neurochemical and developmental factors are considered to lead to anorexia. Children suffering from anorexia nervosa are more likely to come from families with a history of weight problems, physical illnesses, and other mental health problems, such as depression or substance abuse; overly rigid, critical, intrusive overprotective families. These children may be dependent, immature in their emotional development, and possibly isolated from others. Other mental health problems, such as anxiety or emotional disorders, are often found in children with anorexia.

Who suffers from anorexia nervosa?
The majority of those affected are women (90-95%), although statistics change as more and more men suffer from anorexia. Initially, anorexia was mainly found in aristocratic families and the middle class. Still, it is now known that it can be detected in all socio-economic groups and various ethnic and racial groups.

What are the different types of anorexia?

There are two subgroups of anorexic behavior aimed at reducing calorie intakes and are:

1. The restrictive formula: The person significantly limits his food intake, especially the carbohydrates and fat contained in the food.

2. The bulimic type: The person eats excessive amounts and then causes vomiting and/or receives large quantities of laxatives (medicines that, through their chemical impact, serve to increase the clearance of the intestinal content).

What are the symptoms of childhood anorexia?

The following are the most common symptoms found in anorexia. However, each child may manifest these symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

· Low body weight.
· Intense fear of becoming the person obese, even if he loses weight
· Distorted view of body weight, size, or shape. He sees himself as too fat, even if he’s underweight.
· He refuses to maintain a minimum average body weight.
· Cessation of menstruation (for girls in adolescence)
· Excessive physical activity to achieve weight loss.
· The child denies feelings of hunger.
· Dealing with food preparation.
· Strange eating behaviors.

The following are the most common physical symptoms associated with anorexia – often resulting from hunger and malnutrition. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms are as follows:

· Dry skin, which when pinched and released, remains pinched
· Dehydration
· Abdominal pain
· Constipation
· Lethargy
· Dizziness
· Fatigue
· Intolerance to low temperatures
· Skinniness
· Development of intense hair growth
· Yellowing of the skin

Children with anorexia may also withdraw socially, be irritable, moody, and/or depressed. Symptoms of anorexia nervous system may resemble other medical problems or psychiatric conditions. Always consult your child’s doctor for a diagnosis.

How is childhood anorexia diagnosed?

Parents, teachers, or coaches should be able to identify the child or adolescent with anorexia, although many people with the disorder initially keep their illness very private or hidden. However, a mental health professional can usually diagnose anorexia in children and adolescents. A detailed history of the child’s behavior by parents and teachers, clinical observations of the child’s behavior, and sometimes, psychological tests contribute to the diagnosis. Parents who record the symptoms of anorexia of the child or adolescent may help with early evaluation and treatment. Early treatment can often prevent future problems.

Anorexia and poor nutrition can negatively affect almost every organ system in the body, thus increasing the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. Anorexia can be fatal. Consult your child’s doctor for more information.

Treatment of childhood anorexia

The specific treatment for anorexia nervosa will be determined by your child’s doctor based on:

· Your child’s age, general health status and medical history
· The extent of your child’s symptoms
· Your child’s tolerance for specific medicines or treatments
· Expectations for the state of the situation
· Your opinion or preferences

Anorexia is usually treated with a combination of treatments and includes individual therapy, family therapy, behavioral modification, and nutritional rehabilitation. Treatment should always be based on a comprehensive assessment of the child and the family. Individual therapy usually involves cognitive and behavioral techniques. The frequent occurrence of medical complications and the possibility of death during acute treatment and rehabilitation therapy require doctors, psychologists, and specialist nutritionists. Parents play a vital supporting role in the treatment process. Hospitalization may be required for medical complications related to weight loss and malnutrition.


John Hopkins Medicine: Anorexia nervosa in children.