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Anorexia Signs & Symptoms

Anorexia nervosa has two distinct subtypes: restricting and binge-purge. Both subtypes of anorexia often display similar medical and/or psychological symptoms:

  • intense fear of becoming fat or gaining weight, even though underweight
  • refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (i.e. 85% of that expected).
  • disturbed body image or denial of current low body weight.
  • amenorrhea or absence of at least 3 consecutive menstrual cycles (those with periods only inducible after estrogen therapy are considered amenorrheic).
  • fainting episodes.

However, there are certain distinct and very important differences between these two subtypes that can affect treatment outcome. For example, as the name implies binge-purge anorexics engage in purging (vomiting). Often this will lead inexperienced providers to misdiagnosed the child as bulimic. This would be a serious mistake: binge-purge anorexia is far less common and can be a more serious form of childhood eating disorder than bulimia. Treatment for bulimia is also quite different.

Restricting anorexics, on the other hand, engage purely in calorie restriction without a reported history of bingeing and purging. Restricting anorexics often display different psychological symptoms that require a treatment program appropriate to their diagnosis. Your eating disorder treatment team should be aware of the distinctions between restricting and binge-purge anorexia. If they are not, find a team that is. It is important to remember that your child may not exhibit all symptoms of a given diagnosis. But do not wait until your child is very ill to seek eating disorder help. Eating disorder treatment is far more successful when undertaken early in the progression of the illness.

If you are unsure whether your child has been properly diagnosed or if are you are simply looking for eating disorder help, call us on 503 249 8851 and ask for our intake coordinators. For your convenience, you may also submit an online request. We answer all requests promptly.