For most people, anorexia is extremely difficult to understand. It is not a diet gone too far or a game played by a young girl to get attention from friends or a member of the family. Anorexia is a psychiatric disorder, not unlike depression or anxiety. Very simply defined, anorexia is self-starvation. Those with this disorder starve themselves to a state of severe malnutrition or even death. Once they start, it is challenging to end the behaviors and go back to healthy eating. This disease impacts everything: work, home, health, and friendships.
Some Signs of Anorexia
Much can be done to discover whether or not a family member has anorexia. Observation is the first line of defense for any parent.
Anorexia symptoms are physical, biological, and behavioral. Because dieting is a vital part of anorexia, many of the most common symptoms surround food and dieting. A female with anorexia diets obsessively, even when not overweight. In fact, she may have experienced a recent rapid weight loss – 15% or more below her normal body weight. She will complain that she feels “fat,” when this is not a reality.
Anorexia red flags include:
- A great deal of weight loss
- Failure to gain weight at an expected rate
- Apparent body image issues
- A genuine fear of gaining weight
- Inability to concentrate
At the very least, these adolescents or young women should be seen by the family doctor or a primary care provider. If other medical conditions are ruled out, anorexia should be considered. Remember, children as young as six are currently being diagnosed with eating disorders.
Frequent weighing, even several times in one day, is relatively standard. Though dieting is always on her mind, so is the topic of food. It is not unusual for those with anorexia to have an extreme preoccupation with food, calories, nutrition, and cooking. As an extension of this, it is not unusual for a person with this disorder to talk about food a great deal.
Have There Been Eating Changes?
It is important to detect changes in diet and eating habits. This extends to breakfast, snacks, and most importantly, dinner. Most parents already know how crucial it is for a family to share dinner together, simply as a bonding or catching-up time with one another. Dinnertime is also an opportunity to watch a child eat. When we say eat, we mean the food needs to be consumed. A common anorexia behavior is an ability not to eat, making others think the opposite. A standard technique is to slip food to the family pet, or hide it in a napkin, to be thrown away later. Often, food is pushed around on the plate, to make it appear as though there is less of it at the end of the meal.
Start with Communication
If anorexia is suspected, communication is an excellent place to start. Talk with the young child or adolescent about general subjects such as school, sports, or friends. These conversations may lead to related topics that may elicit more insight regarding feelings and emotions. Do not expect the child to admit to having an eating disorder, because the truth is, they rarely do. It is not a privacy issue; it is the secrecy and deception that is part of the disease. In some cases, the child may be forthcoming and agree to change her behaviors regarding food, get back on the right track and take better care of her health; but again, probably not.
If someone you know has anorexia, please encourage them to get help. Inpatient treatment is often required to fully recover from anorexia.
Inpatient Anorexia Treatment
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.