Anorexia nervosa in children and young people


Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness in which there is a disturbance in the way a person experiences their body shape or weight as well as unhappiness with their body. Overall, Anorexia nervosa occurs more commonly in females than males, but in the younger age group the proportion of boys affected is higher than in older age groups.

The young person may experience intense fear of gaining weight, attempt to lose weight, and/or refuse to maintain a healthy body weight for their age and development. Anorexia affects an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours. The first things that parents and carers may notice in the young person might include change in eating habits, eating less, exercising more, weight-loss, and changes in mood and irritability.

How do I know if my young person has an eating disorder?

Some early warning signs of an eating disorder include:

  • Food restriction and hiding foods (can start with becoming ‘healthy’ or vegetarian)
  • Food obsessions/unusual food habits
  • Calorie counting and obsessive reading of nutritional information on food items
  • Rigid and irrational ideas about food
  • Interested in food, recipes and cooking but not interested in eating
  • Excessive exercise
  • Vomiting/laxative use
  • Excessive time in bathroom after meals
  • Rapid and or excessive weight loss

If you are concerned that your young person may have an eating disorder you should see your family doctor immediately and explain your concerns. Parent involvement in treatment is crucial. While it is expected that a young person will become very upset and may obstruct attempts at treatment, it is very important to have regular family meetings with your health professional to be kept informed about the health of your young person.

It is also important that young people are educated on the importance of living a healthy and balanced lifestyle, this includes eating a healthy and balanced diet and including regular exercise in their routine.

The team at AB, including dieticians and psychologists, are here to help you or your young person so if you have concerns or would like more information please contact us.



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