Telltale Signs of Anorexia Nervosa in Teens

Estimated read time 3 min read

The teenage years are often the most turbulent times in a person’s life, with body changes, raging hormones, and the challenges of socializing and taking on an adult’s responsibilities. It is only the time when they seek more privacy. Unfortunately, this demand for privacy is often the reason why parents miss the signs of anorexia nervosa in their kids. 

Anorexia nervosa often begins at ages 17 to 18 although the number seems to be getting lower in the past few years. There are even cases when the condition was observed in young girls at age 6. This thought can be very terrifying for parents who are worried about their kids and their eating patterns.

To identify the problem and address it right away, catching it early on is the key. Here are some of the common signs that your teen might be having some issues with eating. 

Changes in Eating Habits

One of the earliest signs of a chaotic relationship between eating and food is a change in eating behaviours and patterns. It can manifest in many ways. One is starting to have food rituals that may soon become rigidly enforced or more elaborate. 

These rituals commonly include eating foods in a specific order, compulsive refusal to eat certain kinds of food, not eating foods when they touch other types of food on the plate, pushing around foods on the plate, removing some parts of the foods such as the more well-done portions of meat or crusts, and others. 

While many of these may seem harmless on their own, once combined with other strange behaviours, these might indicate the development of an eating disorder or anorexia nervosa. 

Obsessive Exercising

Obsessive or compulsive exercising is a common symptom of various forms of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. Almost everyone with this condition has a distorted body image. Even if they are severely emaciated or underweight, they might consider themselves overweight or even otherwise unattractive. As a result, they might end up taking extreme measures just so they won’t gain weight. 

Obsessive exercise is found among individuals with anorexia nervosa
Obsessive exercise is found among all eating disorder diagnoses, but it is most common among individuals with anorexia nervosa.

Aside from the infamous avoidance of eating, it can also exhibit in the form of too much exercise. Of course, reasonable exercise is recommended for most people. However, obsessive exercise related to anorexia can put a strain on a person’s body.

This strain can become too powerful, negatively affecting the feet, knees, joints, lungs, and heart. Teens who exercise compulsively might also skip socialization just to exercise, continue exercising despite injuries, or go on runs even under bad weather conditions such as thunderstorms or snowstorms. 

Excessive and Continued Weight Loss 

It is possibly the most telltale symptom of anorexia nervosa and is also the one that defines it. While other illnesses like type-1 diabetes or leukaemia can lead to excessive weight loss in teens, a continuous or sudden weight loss pattern is uncommon in growing adolescents. 

Mental health: Anorexia and eating disorders

After some time, anorexia nervosa patients will start restricting their intake of food to the extent that maintaining a healthy body weight becomes impossible. This can severely slow or put a stop to the development and growth of smaller children and teenagers.

It becomes a serious cause for worry and concern if the weight loss persists for 6 months or the child becomes conspicuously emaciated.

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