At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What are the Symptoms of Anorexia in Children?

K. Testa
K. Testa

The symptoms of anorexia in children are basically the same as those observed in adults. Although teenage girls and young women are usually considered the most common sufferers of anorexia, younger girls and boys can be diagnosed with the eating disorder as well. Regardless of whether they actually need to lose weight, people suffering from anorexia tend to view themselves as overweight. Generally, their ultimate goal is significant weight loss through diet and exercise, and they sometimes use dangerous means — such as self-starvation or binging and purging — to accomplish this. Children with anorexia might display some obvious physical symptoms and exhibit certain behavioral patterns.

Anorexia affects approximately 1% of the U.S. population, primarily women and teenage girls. It generally involves an unhealthy preoccupation with food, even though the problem is not necessarily food itself. Rather, sufferers are typically dealing with their emotional issues by attempting to control their body weight and appearance. They may reject certain types of foods or refuse to eat at all. Anorexia in children may cause them to hide food or lie and say that they are not hungry. Furthermore, children with access to laxatives or diuretics might abuse them to help them avoid weight gain.

Children with anorexia may exhibit physical and behavioral symptoms.
Children with anorexia may exhibit physical and behavioral symptoms.

The behaviors of anorexic children are usually rooted in an extreme fear of gaining weight. They engage in continual dieting and compulsive exercise to avoid weight gain. In addition to being underweight, some physical signs of starvation can include fatigue, weakness, hair loss, bone problems, and poor circulation. Anorexia in children can lead to distorted thinking, in terms of food and one’s body image. It is also frequently associated with social withdrawal, isolation, and depression.

There are various causes and risk factors associated with anorexia. Certain children may be predisposed to developing anorexia due to their genetics. There are also environmental contributing factors, such as stress. A child who is a high achiever in academics, athletics, or the arts, for example, may face a great deal of pressure from parents and mentors. High expectations, whether self-imposed or from external sources, could lead the child to develop anorexia.

Doctors have several ways of diagnosing anorexia in children. They can observe physical and psychological symptoms, and they can perform diagnostic tests such as X-rays and blood tests. Caretakers of children who exhibit symptoms, or who suspect that their child may have risk factors associated with developing anorexia in the future, should seek the advice of a physician. Serious cases can require hospitalization and can result in death if not handled properly. Early treatment of anorexia in children is typically the best way to prevent serious health consequences.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


@pastanaga - I just want to point out that parents are not the only possible source of an eating disorder in children. Anorexia in children might stem from treatment at school, or from anxiety, or maybe from an undiagnosed mental health condition that leads to other symptoms.

While I think it's important for parents to examine their behavior, they might not be doing anything wrong.


@MrsPramm - People need to take a good look at themselves and their behavior if they even suspect there might be eating disorder symptoms in their children, because that is pretty shocking and wrong.

I know it's a bit of a cliche by now, but you really need to treat yourself the way you hope your kids will treat themselves. A lot of people seem to think that the best way to show their kids that they love them is to sacrifice everything for them and that's just not true. Children learn a lot from imitation and they will learn that is the only way to live.

Treat yourself kindly so that your children will learn to treat themselves kindly as well.


It's easy for women to think that it's just normal to constantly criticize their own body and maybe those of other people, and then be shocked that their daughter has picked up their example. I know my own mother is always going on about how fat and ugly she feels and when I was younger it made me feel like I should be doing the same.

It doesn't surprise me that some young children pick up on dieting behaviors and end up with eating disorders. We don't realize how damaging and pointless some of our behaviors are until they are reflected in our children.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Children with anorexia may exhibit physical and behavioral symptoms.
      By: olesiabilkei
      Children with anorexia may exhibit physical and behavioral symptoms.