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The Informed Parent

Eating Disorders

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Apr. 14, 2008

In this era of increasing thinness and an overall fixation on body image, it is not surprising that eating disorders are on the increase in the United States and other industrialized nations of the world. The diagnosis of anorexia requires certain specific criteria.

  1. There is an intense fear of becoming fat. This fear does not decrease as weight loss progresses.
  2. There is a disturbed way in which the child perceives herself--she continues to see herself as overweight, despite sometimes alarming and emaciating weight loss.
  3. There is a refusal to maintain adequate minimal body weight for one’s age and height. An anorexic’s weight is usually more than 15% below the normal level.
  4. In teen girls, there is an absence of at least three consecutive menstrual periods, when there is no other medical explanation for their amenorrhea.

Patients with anorexia will go to extreme lengths to restrict their caloric intake. Often they will also use diuretics, laxatives, or will engage in vomiting or extreme exercise in order to promote further weight loss.

Girls who are anorexic are frequently smart, high-achieving and perfectionists. It is often very difficult for caring parents and families on their own to help their daughter with an eating disorder. The treatment of eating disorders requires an intense, ongoing, and multidisciplinary approach. Some patients can be treated on an outpatient basis, and others require an inpatient stay in order to achieve control. See your child’s doctor if you have any questions. 

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