Fear of gaining weight, weight fluctuations and disordered relationships with food. All this and much more is hidden behind anorexia nervosa, which currently affects more and more children, adolescents and adults. How is anorexia nervosa recognized, what situations should you be aware of and where to seek help?
Anorexia nervosa is one of the eating disorders along with bulimia nervosa and binge eating. It appears most often during adolescence, but it can occur at almost any age and in anyone.
As with other eating disorders, this disease has its origin in part in genetic predisposition and personality, but also in the relationship with food and the body, not only of the affected person, but also of other family members. Experimenting with different diets and food trends, the desire to have a perfect figure and the fear of obesity, the need for perfection, but also stress or trauma are very risky.
How is Anorexia Diagnosed?
Losing weight, refusing to eat, constantly monitoring your weight – these are not the only symptoms of anorexia that should warn you. If you notice your child cutting out snacks, cutting back on daily food portions, avoiding potlucks and dinners, and marking foods “off limits,” it’s time to pay attention. Excessive exercise or wearing unusually loose clothing can be an indication that something is wrong.
You may also notice a significant lack of concentration, mood swings, irritability, or withdrawal from activities your child used to enjoy until now. Severe symptoms are usually hair loss, low blood pressure, constipation, chills, worsening of the skin, and missed periods in girls.
Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
Unhealthy eating habits: eliminating certain types of food and refusing food.
Efforts to lose weight and an unhealthy attitude towards the body: following rituals and order, compensating for feelings with food, not accepting the body, not feeling hungry and full. Health problems associated with hunger.
Trying to lose weight: hiding and throwing away food, buying weight loss supplements.
Health and psychological problems: low blood pressure, hair loss, constipation, missed periods, irritability, mood swings, lack of concentration.
What Do People With Anorexia Do?
A child with anorexia will avoid shared meals at all costs. He will constantly claim that he has already eaten at school or with friends. Every bite is offset by excessive exercise, movement, and subsequent weight gain several times a day.
The fear of accumulating calories is so strong that they prefer to starve. They endure a daily ritual where irritability and nervousness are behind each change. It may seem contradictory, but he often talks about food and loves to prepare it for others. Food is the enemy on the one hand, and on the other hand it is the center of the universe.
Warning Signs and When to Intervene
Do these warning signs look familiar to you? So be careful and remember that weight is not the only sign of anorexia or a measure of the severity of the disease. Visible physical changes, such as poor nutrition, are only the result of long-term illness.
People with a normal weight often suffer from loss of appetite. Then detection becomes more difficult, because the disease is not visible at first glance. It is important to monitor changes in behavior and respond to them in a timely manner.
Where to Look for a Helping Hand
In such a situation, you can go to a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist, general practitioner or nutritional therapist. In case of anorexia, it is not recommended to seek help from uneducated fitness trainers or nutritionists, who can, on the contrary, harm and aggravate the disease with unprofessional advice. Treatment can be done on an outpatient basis, in more serious cases in the form of hospitalization.
The non-profit organization Annabelle, which now has contact points in Prague, Brno and Ostrava, actively deals with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. If you cannot go to an advice center in person, they have a telephone line and an email advice center in operation. Post on Instagram awareness in the field of eating disorder prevention. She spreads information about eating disorders, their causes, consequences and treatment on her Instagram account kitaka_haes, trainer Kristina Miřetinská or Instagram account 3pe.
How Can You Help
Anorexia is a burden and a problem for all family members and their close environment. Therefore, it is necessary to support the child in treatment and on the road to recovery. Find information about the illness your child is experiencing. Accompany the child to the specialists, support him in the change and communicate with him without reproaching or belittling the disease.
Don’t panic, threaten, or blame your child or yourself. Therapy is a long-term process, and it is often important to involve all family members in family psychotherapy and other support activities. Always keep in mind that only by working together can you handle a difficult situation.
When all outpatient treatments fail, hospitalization in a specialized hospitalization unit should be resorted to. Hospitalization is often caused by serious health problems or significant weight loss. In this case, a psychiatrist will write you a recommendation. Unfortunately, the capacities of child psychiatry, both outpatient and hospital, are insufficient, so waiting times are unfortunately longer.