Signs of Anorexia to Watch for in Teens

Anorexia signs

Verywell / Chelsea Damraksa 

Anorexia is a serious, and sometimes deadly, eating disorder. It is said that 0.5 to 1% of women in the United States have 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.


Anorexia is an eating disorder that causes the person to severely restrict what he or she eats or drinks. A person with anorexia 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.

Signs in Teens

There are many and varied signs of anorexia in teens:

  • 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.)

Problems Caused by Anorexia

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

  • Amenorrhea. If the anorexic is female, she may never get her first period or her periods stop or become less frequent
  • Muscle weakness and loss of muscle
  • Brittle bones (osteoporosis)
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • 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

People who have anorexia are often hard-driving perfectionists. Despite the fact that they usually get good grades and excel in after-school activities, they often have low self-esteem and a need to control the people and things around them. 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 has anorexia or is exhibiting disorder eating behaviors, 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.

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Article Sources
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  1. National Eating Disorder Association. Anorexia nervosa.

  2. National Eating Disorder Association. Health consequences.

  3. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Eating disorders in teens. Updated March 2018.