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Warning Signs of Anorexia in Teens

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Anorexia and bulimia are common eating disorders among teens. And this includes teenage boys, who are often overlooked when it comes to disordered eating and body dysmorphia.

Teens have the tendency to compare themselves to celebrities. And actors and models tend to be sample sizes (sizes 0-4). Unfortunately, teens begin to believe in this standardized image of attractiveness. They also face pressure from their peers and from social media, which impacts their self-esteem.

Teens may also experience pressure from within their family. In some cases, parents can influence their child’s body image if they are worried about their weight. As a result, teenage girls may develop body image issues.

Hence, negative body image can be a contributing factor in eating disorders. Teens will starve themselves to try to fit their ideal image.

Anorexia is more prevalent in females, but is not exclusive to teenage girls. It can affect boys as well. Males often experience body image differently than females, however. Females with anorexia may attempt to be “model thin,” whereas males may develop an exercise addiction or other unhealthy behaviors.

Warning Signs of Anorexia

Anorexia is characterized by a refusal to eat. It sometimes coexists with over-the-top amounts of exercise. The goal is to burn as many calories as possible. The idea is to not only prevent weight gain, but to continue to lose weight.

Teens with anorexia perceive themselves as overweight regardless of their true size. Teens suffering from anorexia will obsess over their physical appearance. Such an obsession often triggers rigid dieting, refusal to eat, and other extreme behaviors.

Hence, the most obvious of the warning signs of anorexia is drastic weight loss. To avoid eating, anorexia sufferers will make excuses to skip meals or say they’re not hungry. While they will eat on occasion, they will choose items low in calories and sugar. And they will often try to eat in private because they’re concerned about being judged.

There are other warning signs of anorexia that go hand in hand with malnutrition. This is due to lack of vitamins and other essential nutrients. These are just a few of the indications that could suggest anorexia:

  • Discolored teeth
  • Hair loss
  • Dull skin
  • Fatigue.

Anorexia does not always relate to eating habits. Anorexics obsess over losing weight and may also exercise to a degree that is unhealthy. They will work out for hours on end in a single day, and will feel like they should be doing even more.

Moreover, teens with anorexia commonly suffer from body dysmorphia, a mental health condition in which they obsessively focus on a perceived flaw in their appearance.

Treatment Options for Those Battling Anorexia

Parents and other adults who work with teens, such as coaches and teachers, are often the ones to identify the warning signs of anorexia. Friends of teens might not say anything, particularly if they are undergoing similar struggles themselves.

If a coach or teacher suspects anorexia, they should talk to the student’s parents. Without treatment, teens will continue to decline. In fact, anorexia is the deadliest of all eating disorders.

Help is available; contact us at Newport Academy for several treatment options. Treatment is essential, as anorexia can have long-term effects on health. The most effective treatment for eating disorders addresses body image issues, associated anxiety, and other underlying causes.


Int J Eat Disord. 2009 Jul; 42(5): 471–474.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011 Jul;68(7):724-31.