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Anorexia Nervosa


St. Joseph’s Adolescent Medicine Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona is specialized in the treatment of anorexia nervosa in teenagers.

Anorexia nervosa, sometimes referred to as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low body weight (less than 85 percent of normal weight for height and age), a distorted body image, amenorrhea (the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles when otherwise expected to occur in women) and an intense fear of gaining weight.

Causes of Anorexia in Teens

The cause of anorexia nervosa is not known. Anorexia usually begins as an innocent dieting behavior for teens but gradually progresses to extreme and unhealthy weight loss. Possible contributors to anorexia include social attitudes toward body appearance, family influences, genetics and neuro-chemical developmental factors.

Symptoms of Anorexia in Adolescents

Symptoms may include:

  • Low body weight
  • Intense fear of becoming obese, even as he/she is losing weight
  • Distorted view of one’s body weight, size or shape
  • Refuses to maintain minimum, normal body weight
  • Absence of three menstrual cycles without another cause (in females)
  • Excessive physical activity in order to promote weight loss
  • Denies feelings of hunger
  • Preoccupation with food preparation
  • Bizarre eating behaviors

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Dry skin that when pinched and released stays pinched
  • Dehydration
  • Abnormal pain
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Intolerance to cold temperatures
  • Emaciation
  • Development of lanugo (fine, downy body hair)
  • Yellowing of skin
  • A teen with anorexia may also be socially withdrawn, irritable, moody and/or depressed.

Treatment of Anorexia

Treatment for anorexia at St. Joseph’s Adolescent Medicine Clinic uses a team approach. Our adolescent medicine physician works with a counselor and dietitian for the best possible outcome.

Treatment is based on an evaluation of the adolescent and their family. If the child with anorexia is also depressed, medication may be helpful. Parents also play a very important role in the treatment process by providing support. If medical complications related to weight loss and malnutrition arise, hospitalization at St. Joseph’s may be required.

Learn More about St. Joseph's Eating Disorders Program

To learn more about how St. Joseph’s Adolescent Medicine Clinic can help your teen with anorexia, call 602.406.7564.