Anorexia nervosa is an eating problem that causes your child to see herself as being overweight when she is not. Your child is so afraid of becoming overweight that she eats as little as possible.
Anorexia can be both a very severe physical and mental illness. Your child could die from starvation or suicide.
The exact cause of anorexia is not known. Part of the cause in many cultures is thinking that being thin means being beautiful. This illness is most common in teens and young women, but can start in girls as young as 4. Young athletes, dancers, models, and actors who focus on low weight to perform better may also develop anorexia.
Your child may be at risk of developing anorexia if she:
Signs and symptoms may include:
If a girl exercises a lot or her weight gets very low, she may not have monthly periods. Hormone changes result from low weight and low levels of body fat.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. He will ask about eating habits and other behaviors.
Anorexia does not go away or get better on its own. Treatment involves learning healthy eating habits. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you meet with a dietitian to create a healthy eating plan for your child. Your child may need therapy to help change how she thinks about herself and food.
Family therapy is often very helpful. Family therapy treats all members of the family rather than working with one person alone. It helps the whole family to make changes.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a way to help your child identify and change views she has of herself, the world, and the future. CBT can make your child aware of unhealthy ways of thinking. It can also help her learn new thought and behavior patterns.
There are no medicines known to treat anorexia nervosa. Medicine may be prescribed if your child has problems with anxiety or depression.
Your child may need to be hospitalized if her condition is severe and life threatening.
If your child has anorexia, she may think constantly about weight and food for many years. Even after your child reaches a healthy weight, she may need to continue treatment for many months. Being under a lot of stress can cause the symptoms to get worse. The earlier you seek treatment for your child, the more successful it is likely to be.
Ask your child if she is feeling suicidal or has done anything to hurt herself. Get emergency care if your child has ideas of suicide or harming others or harming herself.
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