Within the circle of eating disorders, there are many behaviors, all of which can be potentially harmful to a person. These include bulimia, bigorexia, and anorexia. Until recently, anorexia nervosa was thought to only affect adolescents and adults. Today, it is known that even childhood anorexia occurs. How to recognize anorexia in children and how to treat it?

What is anorexia?

Anorexia is a type of eating disorder in which food is not eaten out of fear of gaining too much weight. Its reasons are psychological. In young children, there may be a lack of interest in food, hence the term “infantile anorexia” appeared in the literature.

In children suffering from anorexia, the perception of the aesthetics of the figure is disturbed. They consistently refuse to eat, despite the general understanding that this causes progressive destruction of the body to the point that hospital treatment is sometimes required.

The problem of anorexia worsens during puberty and impacts girls more often than boys.

What are the causes of anorexia in children?

The causes of anorexia are many, but they differ depending on the age of the patient. Psychologists note that for young children, refusal to eat is associated with control over the parent. The child very quickly learns how parents react to his behavior. Attempts to force-feed or constantly diversify food at any cost can lead to the perpetuation of incorrect behavior patterns when the baby refuses food in order to be the center of attention.

Childhood and adolescent anorexia have completely different causes. Refusal of food is aimed at maintaining or losing weight. This, in turn, is associated with peer pressure, adaptation to temporal trends and fashion.

Eating disorders usually occur more typically in children from pathological families, where the youngest member of the family cannot always count on the support of the closest people, and sometimes also has problems with self-acceptance. The development of anorexia can also be influenced by a violation of the separation process in early childhood and low self-esteem.

How to recognize anorexia in infancy and adolescence?

The symptoms of anorexia look different in young children and teenagers. Infantile anorexia is diagnosed when a child refuses to eat enough food for his age and weight for at least a month and in extreme situations does not signal hunger. The kid shows a lack of interest in food, despite the attempts of the parents to feed him.

Anorexia in a teenage child is manifested primarily in the refusal of food, a sharp decrease in the number of kilocalories consumed, the use of restrictive fasting and diets. These symptoms are usually accompanied by excessive concentration on your body weight, weighing yourself many times a day. Distorted perception concerns not only the weight of the body, but also its appearance. A person suffering from eating disorders is convinced that he is unattractive and overweight, although these assumptions are completely untrue.

Parents should be aware that anorexia primarily affects young women during puberty, when numerous hormonal changes occur in the body, including fat deposits around the thighs, buttocks, or breasts.

Consequences of anorexia in children

The effects of anorexia in a child are only noticeable in the long term, in the short term they can be easily overlooked and attributed to fatigue or mood swings that accompany puberty. Typical symptoms include:

  • rapid weight loss;
  • hair loss;
  • frequent infections;
  • refusal to eat;
  • electrolyte disturbances leading to convulsions;
  • growth deficit.

In extreme cases, the sick person may experience low body temperature or excessive sleepiness. Long-term eating disorders may even require the child to be hospitalized. Sometimes accompanied by various physical illnesses such as idiopathic headaches or abdominal pain and even chest pain, palpitations or fainting.

How is anorexia treated?

Treatment of eating disorders is a complex task that requires a responsible approach from both parents and therapists. Attempts to coax a child by force usually have the opposite effect of what was expected and cause the young person to deny the need for food even more. In practice, individual therapy is used along the line of therapist-patient. It is complemented by family therapy, the purpose of which is to help the closest people understand the essence of the problem and indicate the best course of action in difficult times.

It should be remembered that the strong emotions that accompany puberty contribute to the development of various types of eating disorders in a child. Parents who suspect anorexia in their child should contact a psychotherapist or nutritionist as soon as possible.