Anorexia Nervosa In Teens: The Ultimate Guide

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Anorexia nervosa symptoms in the teen include fatigue, constipation, insomnia, dehydration, osteoporosis, social withdrawal, depression, denial of hunger, and excessive exercising.

As a parent, the diet of the teen is one of the most important things that should be looked upon. The teen should eat healthy food from an early age. If feeding is done properly from the start, the teen will grow healthy and maintain dietary habits throughout life. Anorexia is something that affects teens of all socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic groups without much difference between individual groups.

What is anorexia nervosa?

When suffering from anorexia nervosa, the teen refuses to eat well so as to reduce weight and improve body shape. This condition is common during teenage since teens get conscious about their looks at this age. Physical attractiveness is given more importance rather than health and consequently, the teen starves to death slowly.

anorexia nervosa
Suffering from anorexia. Red-haired woman with eating disorder eating nothing suffering from anorexia

Types

Anorexia nervosa is of two types –

Restrictor

In this, the teen consciously avoids consuming calories in order to reduce weight and focus on looking attractive. Teen cut downs on eating carbohydrates and fats greatly.

Bulimia

It is in direct contrast with the restrictor type, although the result is the same. The child eats more than termed as binge eating. Then purges out all the food either by vomiting or using laxatives or sometimes by both. This results in the clearing of the intestinal tract and the stomach and leads to severe malnutrition in the child.

Causes of anorexia in teens

The major three causes are –

Psychological factors

In most cases, anorexic teens develop different mental and psychological traits compared to normal teens at that age. They are mostly depressed, as a result of how out of shape look compared to the peers. They are always under pressure to not gain weight which negatively affects the eating habits and results in the teen being unable to eat or handle the food eaten.

Environmental factors

Puberty triggers the release of hormones into a teen’s body which can cause a jumble of mixed emotions at this age. Consequently, the teen may get too self-conscious or even depressed about weight. In some cases, peer pressure and bullying at school can also result in the teen being anorexic from a young age. If the teen is an active participant in strenuous exercises or weight-bearing games, it can make them anorexic too. Other common causes observed include the loss of a loved one, divorce of the parents, and even physical or sexual abuse at young ages, as this harms the psyche of the teen in a great manner.

Genetic factors

Extensive research has shown that teens can have a genetic predisposition towards becoming anorexic. Teen with a family history of colitis, arthritis, cirrhosis, and kidney failure are at a greater risk of being anorexic, compared to the healthier counterparts.

Anorexia nervosa symptoms in the teenager

Some of the signs and symptoms in a teenager are categorized into three types –

Physical signs 

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Osteoporosis
  • Dry skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Lack of energy
  • Tooth decay
  • Dizziness

Behavioral and emotional symptoms 

  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Denial of hunger
  • Excessive exercising
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Irritability

Habits of anorexic teen to lose weight 

  • Frequently skipping meals
  • Not eating in public
  • Following a rigid meal plan
  • Checking body weight repeatedly
  • Eating only low calorie or low-fat food
  • Complaining constantly about gaining weight

Treatment of anorexia nervosa in teens

Since anorexia is more of a psychological disorder than a physical one, the treatment methods can vary greatly from teen to teen. The treatment also depends on the type of anorexia that has affected the teen. The doctor may try to help the teen gain the necessary weight at first, especially if the teen is suffering from severe malnutrition. The behavioral problems are then treated using psychotherapy and counseling and the teen is made to understand that bodyweight should not be given too much importance at any time. After that, healthy food habits are taught to the teen and the parents are expected to support the teen through thick and thin to overcome the depression and stress that might be feeling.

Conclusion

Anorexia is a psychological disorder that can affect the health of the teen. Talk to the teen and doctor about eating disorders and their signs or symptoms.

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