Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that is often caused by a distorted body image. A person who has this condition may restrict the amount of food they eat in an attempt to lose the excess weight they think they have, even if they are very thin. If your child has this condition, there are several different treatment options. If you are not sure if your child has this condition, scroll down to Method 2 to learn about common symptoms.
Treating Anorexia with Therapy and Medical Intervention
Bring your child to individual therapy. This form of therapy is ideal for helping adolescents with thoughts and behavior that contribute to Anorexia Nervosa. During the 45 minute sessions, the adolescent is taken through a talk therapy known as cognitive behavior therapy. The therapist trains the adolescent to learn positive and healthier ways of coping with strong feelings, such as distress.
- This process allows the adolescent to gain self-esteem and to learn coping mechanisms that can combat his or her need to control what he or she eats.
- Individual therapy can be done by a private practice therapist, or in a psychiatric hospital as part of a more extensive treatment plan.
Try family-based therapy. Most adolescents with Anorexia Nervosa end up failing to make sound decision, especially those with low self-esteem. Because of this, it is important that the family knows how to take care of the adolescent. Family therapy can help to air out conflicts so that the family can be more efficient at helping the adolescent. Proper family interaction plays an important role in ensuring that adolescents do not develop anorexia. The family should train a child to focus on inner worth rather than outer beauty through positive appraisal and affirmation. The whole family should practice healthy eating habits and eat a balanced, and healthy diet.
- The therapist is involved in providing psychosocial support, information, monitoring progress, and ensuring proper communication between all family members. He or she may schedule a visit to your home twice a week to engage everyone in a family discussion.
Talk to your doctor about potential medications your child could try. There is no specific medication for Anorexia Nervosa. However, Tricyclic Antidepressants can be used to treat the underlying depression associated with the condition. Pamelor is a commonly prescribed antidepressant for adolescents.
- The usual dose is 40 mg of Pamelor taken over the course of four doses each day.
Get your child nutritional counseling. An adolescent suffering from Anorexia Nervosa might not have an understanding of how to eat properly and still maintain his or her health. Nutritional counseling in this regard, becomes an important component of Anorexia Nervosa treatment. During a nutritional counseling session, a nutritionist or a dietitian will teach your child about healthy eating and proper nutrition.
- The nutritionist will also help your child to develop and follow meal plans. These meals will add up to roughly 2,200 calories a day for girls, and 2,500 to 2,900 calories a day for boys.
Consider hospitalization as a last resort. Sometimes, interpersonal, family-based therapies, and medication may fail to work. If your child still refuses to eat, hospitalization in a medical or psychiatric ward may be required. You could enroll your child in a day or residential program, instead of full hospitalization. In the hospital, your child will take part in intensive therapy and nutrition education sessions.
- To be hospitalized, your child must medically, and psychologically at risk. A distorted body image can make adolescents experience severe depression, self-mutilation, or even suicidal thoughts.
- A weight loss that exceeds 25% of the whole body mass in three months is a criteria for hospitalization as well.
Recognizing Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
Watch for signs of over-dieting. An adolescent suffering from Anorexia Nervosa will often follow a diet that is severely restricted, despite the fact that he or she is already thin. This is because they feel they are fat, even though they are not. You may notice that your child has become obsessed with how many grams of fat, or calories are in a meal.
- Your child may also lie about what he or she has eaten that day. Try to keep track of your child’s meals to avoid this.
Talk to your child if he or she has a fixation with body image. An adolescent suffering from Anorexia Nervosa will often be obsessed with his or her body weight, shape, and cloth size. He or she will regularly be involved in weigh-ins, and will be extremely concerned about tiny weight fluctuations.
- He or she may complain of feeling overweight or too fat, and may discuss places he or she thinks are fatty, like his or her stomach, thighs, or hips.
Look for signs of preoccupation with food. An adolescent suffering from Anorexia Nervosa will think about food constantly because of his or her ‘imagined’ weight. As such, he or she begins to read food magazines, collect recipes, cook for others, while he or she eats very little.
- When he or she eats, he or she develops rigid and ritualistic modes of eating such as cutting food, chewing and spitting it out, or using a designated that only holds a certain amount of food.
Monitor your child’s behavior after dinner time. An adolescent suffering from Anorexia Nervosa may begin to use diet pills, diuretics, or laxatives, to lose weight. He or she may frequently run to the washroom to throw up in order to starve himself or herself of food to keep thin.
- When your child goes to the bathroom to throw up, he or she may run the water to disguise the sound of vomiting. Your child may later emerging smelling of mouthwash, toothpaste, or mint.
Watching for Risk Factors
See if your child has a negative attitude towards his or her body image, and other people’s bodies. Your child may have a negative view about other people’s bodies, not just his or her own. As such he or she might make small comments, or compare his or her body to the bodies of people your child’s thinks are thin.
Know that family background can play a role in the development of this condition. An adolescent coming from a family with a history of depression, substance abuse, or weight problems is more likely to develop Anorexia Nervosa by imitation.
Understand that your child’s personality type may factor into his or her development of this condition. Adolescents suffering from Anorexia Nervosa are often perfectionists or overachievers.They are often labeled as good sons and daughters, following exact instructions, excelling in everything, and focusing on pleasing others.
- While they please others, inside they feel inadequate, and worthless. They begin to view themselves through a critical lens, feeling they are not perfect, and may take this feeling out on their bodies.