Parenting Food and Nutrition

Anorexia Nervosa: Possible Causes & Symptoms, Tips to Cope-up

Shikha Garg
11 to 16 years

Created by Shikha Garg
Updated on Apr 01, 2022

Anorexia Nervosa Possible Causes Symptoms Tips to Cope up
Reviewed by Expert panel

Last Sunday, there was a birthday party at our relative's place. I met Ruby again after three years, she is now 15. She is a state-level champion swimmer. However, everyone noticed a drastic change in her personality of late. Her parents informed me that she is suffering from an eating disorder called Anorexia Nervosa. They said that like most teenagers, she wanted to look thin and beautiful, like the media celebrities.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia is an eating disorder that is related to loss of appetite or loss of interest in food. If left undiagnosed and untreated, anorexia nervosa can become a serious mental illness. Patients deliberately restrict the amount of food they eat, because they are afraid of being unhealthy or fat. Anorexic patients are not actually overweight, but they have an image of themselves as obese people when they look in the mirror.

Signs & Symptoms of Anorexia

It is not always easy to recognize an eating disorder immediately, which is why we as parents must be careful and observant of our teen’s habits. These are a few obvious symptoms of anorexia to watch out for –

Gradually, Ruby started skipping meals and making excuses for not eating. She had an unhealthy obsession with food and healthy diets. She started complaining about being overweight and was always talking with her friends about losing weight. She also spent a lot of time in front of the mirror, looking for flaws in her appearance. After eating a large number of sweets or high-fat foods, she would use dietary supplements, laxatives, or herbal products for weight loss. She focused on exercise and her parents were unaware of when it all became a part of depression, disgust, shame, or guilt about her appearance and eating habits.

Possible Causes of Anorexia

Adolescents are following a culture promoted by the media of looking thin and sexy. For them, this is a “smart, successful person”. It is not only teenagers or youngsters who think this way, this is the perception set in all our minds by the media, and is the negative impact of media exposure. This impact affects our self-image, self-confidence, and our basic health. Our adolescents are easily impressed by certain professions and careers, which promote being thin and extreme weight loss such as ballet and modeling. Every teenager like Ruby faces a lot of peer pressure to be thin and sexy.

How to Cope up with Anorexia

What are the responsibilities of ideal parents and duties towards their teen who suffers an eating disorder? Apart from being observant of their habits and actions, we must establish a healthy, open relationship with our teens. We must also instill the importance of good health, a balanced lifestyle, and self-confidence in them.

As parents, we need to take out time for our teens. We must show understanding and concern, rather than lecture or criticize. We must remain calm, focused, and respectful, avoiding arguments. Often, when confronted, your teen will lie about having an eating disorder. Consulting a mental health specialist is important to help them. Your teen will feel more comfortable accepting their doctor’s advice. Reassure your teen that you are always there for them. It is critical that you do not force conversations. Also, you must avoid criticizing them on their appearance, or blaming them for their disorder.

I hope this blog has helped you understand anorexia better, as well as how potentially dangerous it can be. I request you to please avoid criticizing your children about their weight and appearance. You could also consider expanding your knowledge regarding healthy diets and holistic lifestyles or consult a dietician/nutritionist, or psychologist who could advise your family.

Did you find Shikha’informative blog on anorexia useful? How do you maintain a healthy relationship with your teen? Do you know anyone who has or is suffering from an eating disorder? Do share your experiences and learnings with us in the comments section below. We love hearing from you!

This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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