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What Are The Signs of Anorexia in Teens?

Know What to Look For


Updated June 13, 2014

Why should you know the signs of anorexia in teens? Anorexia is a serious, and sometimes deadly, eating disorder. It is said that 0.5 to 1% of women in the United States suffer from anorexia. Because the disease often starts in the teen years, and can be fatal up to 20% of the time if not treated, it's important for parents to know the signs of anorexia in teens.

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia is an eating disorder that causes the person to severely restrict what he or she eats or drinks. The anorexic is often underweight, but continues to feel overweight or “fat.” There is often a great fear of gaining any weight, despite the fact that the person is underweight.

What Are the Signs of Anorexia in Teens?

This is a list of the many and varied signs of anorexia in teens. One of the essential signs of the disease is that the person restricts what he or she eats, to the point where weight loss occurs. Here are some other signs:

  • Refusing to maintain a normal and healthy body weight.
  • Extreme fear of becoming fat or gaining weight.
  • Continuous dieting.
  • Excessive and compulsive exercising.
  • Being obsessed with diets, calories, nutritional information, fat grams, etc.
  • Being very restrictive of what he or she will eat (no carbohydrates, no fat, etc.)
  • Avoiding food and eating or denying hunger.
  • Developing rituals regarding food (eating food in a certain order, excessive chewing, etc.

Symptoms of the disease include the physical consequences of not eating enough calories or nutrients. These symptoms include:

  • Amenorrhea. The anorexic never gets her first period or her periods stop or become less frequent
  • Muscle weakness and loss of muscle
  • Bones that become brittle and osteoporosis develops
  • Skin that becomes dry and hair can fall out
  • A fine layer of hair grows over the body
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Fainting
  • Irritability, depression, withdrawal from friends and family
  • Low blood pressure or low pulse

One of the other things to be aware of is that there are people with certain personality types that might be prone to developing anorexia. The anorexic might be a hard-driving perfectionist that gets good grades and excels in her after school activities. She probably also has low self esteem and has a need to control the people and things around her. These personality traits might be obvious or they might be subtle, but they can point towards a tendency to anorexia.

If you think your teen is anorexic, get help immediately. Contact your pediatrician or family physician for help with managing this potentially devastating disease. Because of the complicated nature of the disease, enlisting the help of those who have experience with eating disorders is key to help get your teen on the road to recovery.

For more information on anorexia and other eating disorders, visit About.com's Eating Disorders site.


Anorexia Nervosa. National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders. [link ulr=http://www.anad.org/22385/22427.html]http://www.anad.org/22385/22427.html July 7, 2009.

Anorexia Nervosa. National Eating Disorders Association. http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/p.asp?WebPage_ID=286&Profile_ID=41142 July 7, 2009.

Facts for Families: Teenagers With Eating Disorders. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/teenagers_with_eating_disordersJuly 7, 2009

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