Skip to Content

Anorexia Nervosa in Children


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.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.


is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give medicine or liquids.

Vital signs:

Healthcare providers will check your child's blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask you or your child about his pain. These vital signs give information about your child's current health.


may be used to record the electrical activity of her or his heart.


Your child may need any of the following, depending on her or his age and how severe the anorexia is:

  • Antianxiety medicine decreases anxiety and helps your child 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.


  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give healthcare providers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Bone density pictures may be used to check for bone loss. Bone loss can happen if your female child no longer has a monthly period.

  • X-ray pictures may be used to check for a lung infection.


  • Nutrition therapy means you and your child will meet with a dietitian to plan healthy meals. Others in your family may also meet with the dietitian. Healthcare providers and dietitians will work with your child to make small changes over time.
  • A nasogastric (NG) tube may be put into your child's nose and down into her or his stomach. Liquid food may be given through your NG tube.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to help your child learn the reasons she or he is unhappy with her or his body. A therapist will work with your child to change behaviors and decrease negative feelings about food and weight.
  • Group or family therapy is a meeting your child has with other people who also have anorexia nervosa. Family therapy is a meeting your child has with healthcare providers and family members. Group and family meetings are a time when your child can talk with others about ways to cope with anorexia nervosa.


Anorexia nervosa can cause serious health problems from malnutrition. Malnutrition means your child's body is not getting enough calories, protein, and other nutrients to be healthy. Your child's bones might become brittle and be at increased risks for fractures. Your child's heart, brain, and other organs can be damaged from lack of nutrition.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.

Further information

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