Anorexia In Children – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Children are picky eaters, don’t we know all about that! So, it comes as no surprise that an eating disorder like anorexia may remain undiagnosed in children. You might just dismiss your child’s disinterest in food as fussiness. But, as incredible as it may sound, anorexia can, and in some cases does affect children. As a parent, it is your responsibility to learn as much as you can about anorexia so that you can help your little one overcome the condition.

And we, at MomJunction, have put together some relevant information about anorexia in children below. So read our post and learn what causes anorexia, how you can spot it, and what line of treatment you need to follow.

What Is Anorexia?

Anorexia is an eating disorder that makes a person obsessive about the foods she eats and her weight. Children who have anorexia become more obsessive about lowering their body weight and looking physically attractive than normal children. When your child suffers from the anorexia, she starves herself to death slowly, obsesses about weight, and exercises more rigorously than normal. Anorexia in children surfaces as a psychiatric disorder where your child exhibits abnormal eating behavior, among a host of other symptoms (1).

[ Read: Eating Disorders In Children ]

Important Facts About Anorexia In Children:

  • The psychiatric condition can trigger eating disorders in your child, and she refuses to eat and drink healthy foods.
  • Some common causes of anorexia in kids include societal pressure, behavioral problems, and genetic factors.
  • Anorexia occurs more in female children than males.
  • Child with anorexia exhibit compulsive behaviors like getting obsessed with food, body weight.
  • Anorexic children are at higher risk of experiencing retarded growth and development than normal kids.
  • Anorexia can often lead to malnutrition in children.
  • Some other complications anorexia causes include digestive problems, anemia, bone density loss, and hormonal and electrolyte imbalances.
  • The treatment for kids with anorexia often involves a perfect blend of family, group and individual psychotherapies, with nutritional counseling.

Causes Of Anorexia In Children:

Here are some common factors that can elevate your child’s risk of turning anorexic:

1. Psychological Factors:

  • Anorexic children often develop few personality and behavioral traits that are different from other healthy children.
  • Anorexic children have a tendency to stay depressed and find it tough to handle stress.
  • They remain emotionally restrained and suffer from a constant pressure of restricting weight gain.
  • The feelings of obsession and compulsion make such children negative, which further compels them to avoid food.

2. Environmental Factors:

  • Hormonal changes that occur in adolescents, especially when approaching puberty can also trigger the onset of anorexia. Such children are under immense stress and have poor self-esteem.
  • Excess pressure or stress at school can often make your child anorexic. Some typical situations like peer pressure, exams, bullying can also trigger anoxeria.
  • When your child indulges in strenuous physical activities like gymnastics, athletics or weight bearing games, it can make her anorexic.
  • A stressful life event like the death of a dear family member or divorce of parents can trigger an emotional crisis and turn children anorexic.
  • Physical or sexual abuse can hamper a child’s psychological condition, which may trigger anorexia.

3. Biological And Genetic Factors:

  • Researchers conclude that a genetic predisposition to anorexia often runs in the family.
  • Children with a family history of chronic illnesses like arthritis, colitis, kidney failure, and cirrhosis and kidney failure have higher tendency to turn anorexic than others (2).

[ Read: Loss Of Appetite In Children ]

Symptoms Of Anorexia In Children:

As we mention above, children with anorexia often reduce the amount of food they eat, which results in severe weight loss. This is the most prominent anorexia symptoms in kids. Other symptoms include:

Physical Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Dry Skin
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Swelling of arms or legs
  • Lack of energy
  • Dizziness
  • Tooth Decay

Behavioral And Emotional symptoms:

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

Habits that your anorexic child adopts to get rid of her extra pounds:

  • Skipping meals frequently
  • Avoiding eating foods in public
  • Adopting a rigid eating or meal plan
  • Eating only the foods low in calories and fats
  • Checking her body weight repeatedly
  • Complaining about weight gain but in truth, she isn’t (3)

Treating Anorexia In Children:

The treatment for anorexia varies for every child. It entirely depends on the particular cause of anorexia. Doctors begin initial treatment with immediate weight gain as a top priority, especially for children who suffer from malnutrition and need immediate hospitalization.

Psychotherapy also helps treat psychological and behavioral problems, and it often leads to proper restoration of weight in children.

The treatment for anorexia in children comprises both medications and psychological support, and aims to:

  • Bring the anorexic child back to her healthy, normal weight again.
  • Treat the physical, mental, psychological problems correctly.
  • Re-instate healthy food habits.
  • Offer optimum mental support to help your child overcome the stress and depression (4).

[ Read: Rumination Disorder In Children ]

What You Can Do?

  • When you notice that your little one avoids food groups or eats portion sizes meal only, you need to consult the doctor to rule out a physiological problem.
  • Create a healthy and nutritious eating lifestyle at your home and get your child to follow this pattern. Prepare healthy foods for your child, and make it a habit of eating together.
  • Don’t let your child skip meals. You should know that a healthy eating pattern involves three meals a day, comprising diverse, balanced and nutritious foods.
  • Get your child to follow an active lifestyle. If your child becomes sedentary, switch the TV off and encourage her to take a walk or ride her bike.
  • In your hectic life schedule, try to take time out for your children. Listen to what they say, what they complain about and how they feel about life.
  • Don’t criticize your child about her body weight, appearance, shape or size.

Did your child suffer from Anorexia? How did you help your little one overcome the problem? Tell us here. We would love to hear from you.

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