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Anorexia Nervosa in Adolescents


Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. You weigh much less than your normal body weight should be. You lose weight by eating very little food, or by bingeing and purging. This means eating large amounts quickly and then vomiting or using laxatives to prevent weight gain. You worry about weight gain, and you judge your weight and shape. The weight loss is not related to another medical condition.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • You want to harm or kill yourself.
  • You have pain when you swallow, or severe pain in your chest or abdomen.
  • Your heart is beating fast or fluttering, or you feel dizzy or faint.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your muscles feel weak, and you have pain and stiffness.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have tingling in your hands or feet.
  • Your monthly period is light or has stopped completely (females).
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antianxiety medicine decreases anxiety and helps you feel calm and relaxed.
  • Anticonvulsants control seizures and decrease violent behavior, aggression, or irritability. This medicine may help control your mood swings.
  • Antidepressants help decrease or prevent the symptoms of depression.
  • Mood stabilizers help control mood changes.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements may be needed if you are malnourished. You may need to take a mineral supplement, such as potassium. You may also need to take multivitamins to replace what your body has lost.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


You may feel like it will be hard to get better. You may have a lot of feelings about eating and reaching a healthy body weight. Treatment is meant to help you develop a healthy relationship with food. Treatment may also be needed for health problems caused by anorexia. Treatment may need to take place in a hospital or clinic.

  • Counseling is an important part of treatment. You may work with healthcare providers alone or in a group. Group counseling is a way for you to talk with others who have anorexia. Counseling may center on helping you replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Family sessions can help everyone in the family understand anorexia and what to do to help you.
  • Nutrition therapy means you will meet with a dietitian to plan healthy meals. Others in your family may also meet with the dietitian. Your healthcare providers and dietitian will work with you to make small changes over time.

How to care for yourself:

You might be comparing your weight and size to friends or others in your school. You may also see images in magazines or on TV that make you think you need to have a certain shape. Part of caring for yourself means not comparing yourself to anyone else. Your body can be strong and healthy. As you work through your feelings about yourself and your body, you may start to see your body in a more positive way. The following are some tips to help you as you care for yourself:

  • Be patient. Recovery from anorexia is a process that takes time. You may have times when you go back to not eating, or eating few calories, especially during stressful times. This is common. Work with family members and healthcare providers to get back on track with healthy eating and healthy exercise. Try not to be angry with yourself for the episode. It might help to talk about your feelings with someone you trust.
  • Focus on a healthy self-esteem. Think about everything you like about yourself. For example, you may be a talented artist, or you may write well. Focus on those skills or talents instead of on appearance. Ask others not to comment on your weight or shape. Your healthcare provider can tell you healthy weight ranges for your age and height. It may take time before you are comfortable knowing your weight or seeing your weight as healthy. Remember your goals to build a healthy self-esteem. Be patient with yourself as you change your thinking.

For support and more information:

  • National Eating Disorders Association
    165 West 46th Street
    New York , NY 10036
    Phone: 1- 212 - 575-6200
    Phone: 1- 800 - 931-2237
    Web Address:
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Anorexia Nervosa in Adolescents (Aftercare Instructions)

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.