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What Are Symptoms of Anorexic Children?

Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of anorexia in children from Allegra Broft, M.D. in this Howcast video about eating disorders.


Symptoms of anorexia in children can sometimes be a little bit confusing or it can be difficult to see if there are symptoms of anorexia in a child with this type of problem. A child with anorexia can't necessarily tell you, "Oh, mom or dad, I feel conflicted about my body," for example. They may not have that type of abstract thinking about their emotional life and their relationship to their body and their body image.

What you may see in children are some indirect signs that something is going on. You may see a child that is refusing food or tending to sort of push food around on the plate at dinnertime instead of actually eating it. If this goes on in a pervasive basis that means something might be going on. You might notice that child is going to school and taking their lunch with them and then bringing it back at the end of the day. And maybe it's mostly not eaten. Although some children that are very bent on restricting their food will get more clever than that and will throw away the lunch rather than bring it back.

Some nonspecific signs you can see in children are things like low mood, depression, withdrawal, spending more time isolated in the child's room. Those can all be some nonspecific signs that an eating problem is going on.

There may be other types of signs, like, a child seems very preoccupied with certain types of food or is making certain types of requests when you go with them to the grocery store.

Some more concrete signs that you might see once you get to the doctor's office is that maybe your pediatrician will not some weight loss and will actually say that your child has fallen off of the normal growth curve that the child has been on. Sometimes that can be an indication that there is some serious weight loss going on.

Ultimately, if you have any concerns, you feel like you're seeing some symptoms of weight loss or some type of unusual eating behavior with your child, the best thing to do is to reach out as soon as possible to your pediatrician. If not, a professional, an eating professional, a mental health professional that can give some advice or guidance as to is there something strange going on with eating, is there an eating problem or is this may be a childhood phase.

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