A full ten million women and girls in the United States suffer from anorexia and bulimia. These food-related illnesses are devastating to a person’s body and are often accompanied by related behavioral health issues such as depression or anxiety.

Diagnosing Anorexia

Today, children as young as six years old are diagnosed with eating disorders. In addition to the classic signs and anorexia symptoms, individuals may present with the following:

  • Classic self-starvation behavior
  • Severe anxiety
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Obsessive thoughts related to a fear of eating and a fear of getting fat
  • Tremendous psychological torment
  • A desire to please their parents, but cannot bring themselves to eat the food at their parent’s request
  • Not typically an act of defiance, but a severe obsessive thought disorder which must be carefully treated by mental health professionals who are experienced with eating disorders and related co-morbidities
  • Persistent food avoidance and weight loss for emotional reasons
  • Some children may not have body image concerns or obsessions
  • Eating disorders in children need to be distinguished from feeding disorders that might cause failure to thrive and growth problems; furthermore, disturbed parent-child relationships often manifest with food and eating problems

Anorexia Nervosa Treatment

Because anorexia nervosa is psychiatric, not just physical, in nature, diagnosis is not as easy to make as with someone who has a disease like diabetes. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, specific criteria must be present for the determination of anorexia to be made. These conditions include:

Low Body Weight

The key number to keep in mind is 85%. If the individual is at 85% or less of what would be considered a normal body weight for her height and age, a problem likely exists. This concern would be amplified if she also refused to gain additional weight to bring her weight up to what would be considered medically healthy.

Weight Phobia

This is characterized by an extreme fear of gaining weight. These individuals are afraid of becoming fat, or even think they are fat, even though that is not the case. It is often challenging for people with this type of phobia to consume food for fear of gaining weight.

Body Image Issues

Body image is how a person sees themselves – how they experience their weight or shape. This view of themselves has an undue influence on self-evaluation, meaning an adolescent could be a good student, outgoing, excellent at sports, but all she can focus on, all she seems to care about, is the size of her “fat” thighs. This is usually accompanied by a denial of the seriousness of her low body weight.


This medical condition is the loss of the menstrual period. Amenorrhea is present when a female, who has already achieved puberty, quits menstruating for at least three months. In this situation, the only way she can have a period is through the administration of hormones.

Because eating disorders are diseases, treatment is usually required.

Outpatient services are available at centers throughout the country and are often quite effective. However, if progress isn’t made, inpatient treatment is recommended, such as the intensive care offered at The Meadows Ranch Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders.

Anorexia Treatment after Diagnosis

Recovery from an eating disorder is possible. It’s happening every day at The Meadows Ranch. Based on feedback from patients, families, and professionals, the vast majority of our patients remain committed to a life of health, balance, and purpose.

For additional information about the treatment of eating disorders, please call to speak to an Intake Coordinator at 866-390-5100 or complete the form below and we will contact you with the information you need.