4 Signs of Anorexia Nervosa Disorder That Parents Can’t Ignore

Updated on August 28, 2019
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Every parent has to balance care for their children with respect for their privacy.  It’s a nightmare scenario when a disorder like anorexia nervosa or something equally as severe is forming, but the exact problem can’t be pinpointed.  That’s why parents need to be familiar with the symptoms of potential behavioral and mental health diseases that appear during adolescence.

Anorexia nervosa is a very dangerous mental health disorder.  There is a 20 percent chance of premature death if anorexia nervosa treatment is not secured.  Many people are familiar with the basics of anorexia, but the formative symptoms can appear less serious at first.  By catching the symptoms of anorexia nervosa disorder early and coordinating with an anorexia nervosa treatment center or another medical professional, the ravages of anorexia can be avoided.

With an average onset of age 18, the need for anorexia nervosa treatment may be necessary as soon as age 13 – there have even been cases observed in girls as young as 6 years old.  Keep an eye out for these four early warning signs of an oncoming anorexia nervosa disorder:

1. Developing Food Rituals

One of the earliest signs of a disordered relationship with food and eating is when a child begins to display food rituals.  These can take a variety of forms, but they tend to become more complex 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 the crust of a sandwich or the stalk of a broccoli floret) or eating foods only in a certain order.  Of course, most of these are innocuous on their own but combined with other unusual behaviors, it might indicate a need to look for anorexia nervosa treatment.

2. Interest in Dieting and Counting Calories at a Young Age

Experts at anorexia nervosa treatment centers who treat teenagers as young as 11 years old have noticed a tendency for these teens to be obsessed with counting calories.  While healthy eating should always be encouraged, diets and strict caloric intake restrictions are usually not appropriate at that age. This kind of behavior speaks to a sense that the teen is overweight or “fat” even though their weight is normal for their height and age – one of the classic symptoms of full-blown anorexia nervosa.

3. Compulsive Exercising

This also ties into a growing sense in adolescents that they are too fat, and they need to take measures to avoid gaining weight.  In many cases of an anorexia nervosa disorder, in addition to food restrictions, people will begin to exercise obsessively to burn off calories.  Certainly, athletics and exercise are important at all ages, but obsessive exercise can put strains on the body which can cause lots of medical complications in later years, affecting the knees, feet and other joints as well as the cardiopulmonary system.  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.

4. Continued and Excessive Weight Loss

This is the sign which indicates parents should consider consulting an anorexia nervosa treatment center. As time goes on, people with anorexia nervosa will restrict their food intake to the point where they cannot maintain a viable body weight.  Malnutrition may cause the body to shut down. At this point, a medical consultation is essential. If weight loss continues for a period of 6 months or your child is noticeably emaciated, don’t hesitate.

A Dangerous, but Not Hopeless Situation

Anorexia nervosa affects almost one percent of the female population, and it ranks among the most fatal mental health diseases.  However, it’s not hopeless. There are many options for help, such as, your family doctor or professional anorexia nervosa treatment centers.  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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