Anorexia in children: how to recognize anorexia in children

child eats very little

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which the person affected have a disturbed relationship with food and their own body.

In addition to anorexia, there is also the form of bulimia and binge eating disorder. All three behaviors are mental illnesses that need to be treated as quickly as possible.

Among other things, anorexia is characterized by a distorted perception of the body, severe weight loss and deficiency symptoms such as circulatory problems.

Losing more and more weight, refusing to eat and, in addition, the constant fear of gaining weight – in many cases, these signs are an eating disorder. Primarily, anorexia affects children or adolescents.

In our guide we would like to give you information about the topic of anorexia in children. We will show you different eating disorders and explain how you can recognize the disease in your child. In addition, we inform you about the consequences and the various treatment options.

1. Eating disorders in children and adolescents are not uncommon

Keeping an eye on weight

If you are unsure to what extent your child’s weight corresponds to the normal state, you should take a look at a weight table or use a BMI calculator.

Eating disorders are a condition in which the sufferers Have a dysfunctional relationship with food and their own bodies. such disorders can develop already in the toddler age. Often the children are very picky or even refuse entire meals.

According to statistics from the Federal Center for Health Education about one fifth of children and adolescents in Germany show symptoms of an eating disorder. It is noticeable that considerably more girls are affected than boys.

Attention: Eating disorders are nothing to be proud of! Rather, they are a serious illness, which can even be fatal in the worst case.

2. A distinction is made between different forms of eating disorders

Bulimia girl with pizza suffering at toilet

In the case of bulimia and binge eating, those affected suffer from uncontrolled eating attacks.

One usually differentiates between the eating disorders Anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. All three disorders are serious disorders in eating behavior and they need to be treated as soon as possible before physical health and psyche suffer even more.

While with the anorexia up to the complete refusal of the food admission can come, expresses itself a Bulimia different. Affected persons suffer from binge eating, Loss of control over the type and amount of food eaten. Subsequently food is eliminated in an unnatural way, such as by vomiting or purging with laxatives.

Also in Binge-eating it is an eating disorder, only it is not associated with weight loss, but with a strong weight gain accompanied by. Just like bulimia, binge-eating is a condition in which the person suffers from uncontrolled food cravings. The food is not eliminated. It rather presents itself as strong feelings of guilt set in and those affected suffer increasingly from overweight.

3. Anorexia is primarily a mental illness

anorexic child on bed

Children and adolescents who suffer from anorexia are not physically ill, but psychologically ill.

In anorexia nervosa, medically called anorexia nervosa, it is first of all Anorexia is a psychological illness that can have various causes. It is especially common in very young girls. Based on the medical term, which translates as "nervous loss of appetite," it is easy to determine that it is not a physical illness.

Children affected by anorexia want to reduce their body weight more and more, because they do not feel comfortable in their body. Although the bones are already protruding and no fat is visible, they are convinced that they are fat.

The disease is comparable to addiction, in which the sufferers put their discipline and ambition above their needs.

The causes of anorexia are very varied. Usually several factors come together. Although genetic aspects also play a role, it is mainly psychological disorders that lead to the desire for control.

In addition, of course, the Western ideal of beauty is also. According to this, beautiful women are primarily slim. This is why anorexia is much less common in boys.

Anorexics usually have very low self-esteem. This means that difficult life circumstances and family problems are much more severe, so that support and control are sought in anorexia.

4. With anorexia, typical behaviors occur

false perception due to anorexia in children

A distorted perception of their own body is a typical characteristic of anorexia nervosa.

Many families and parents wonder how to recognize anorexia in their child. Therefore, in the following the most common anorexia symptoms for you:

  • Severe weight loss or. Underweight
  • Distorted body perception
  • Constant control of weight
  • Eating slowly, forgoing entire meals
  • Constantly increasing compulsion to eat little and do a lot of sports
  • deficiency symptoms, which manifest themselves in physical symptoms, such as circulatory problems or cardiac arrhythmias
  • Hormonal changes, such as z.B. the absence of menstruation
  • Other psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder

If you or your family recognize these symptoms in your child, you should definitely seek help. It is important not to force or reproach your child for eating. It is better to talk to your child and ask how he or she is doing and to what extent you can help.

5. Treatment of anorexia in children in a clinic for eating disorders

treat eating disorder

In most cases, anorexia nervosa requires inpatient treatment in a special clinic.

In general, parents should seek help for any type of eating disorder. The first contact person in this case may be the family doctor. The physician will then conduct an anamnesis interview to learn about the patient’s medical history and to clarify any complaints.

Subsequently, both a physical and a psychological examination takes place. In doing so, the doctor looks at which area of the weight chart your child is in. In the field of psychological examination there are among others Questionnaires to assess the degree of the disease.

Only rarely does anorexia therapy take place on an outpatient basis. This is because many children have such a low body weight that their state of health is already threatening. Therefore, treatment for anorexia initially involves normalizing weight through changes in eating behavior. As a result, many therapies and discussion groups take place, which help your child to perceive her body normally again.

In the clinic, regular checks are made to see whether and to what extent the children and adolescents are gaining weight. If the set goals are not achieved several times, the patients have to leave the clinic. The only exceptions are cases in which there is an acute danger to life.

6. Anorexia in children can, in the worst case, last throughout their lives

anorexia and food refusal in adult women

About one third of those affected suffer from an eating disorder for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, there are always people who do not understand the seriousness of their illness and are therefore not prepared to change their behavior. According to estimates, eating problems persist for a lifetime in one third of patients. In some, even other eating disorders develop in the course of time.

The prognosis for complete recovery depends heavily on weight and psychological condition. Thus, the consequences of anorexia can also vary greatly. While some children have few problems with long-term consequences, others suffer from diseased kidneys or brittle bones.

Parents and relatives are also advised to seek out self-help groups or counseling centers. There are many valuable tips on how to deal with this condition. In addition, you can exchange information with other sufferers there.

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