If your child or a student in your classroom is not eating enough, you may have reason to be concerned. We're not referring to the occasional bouts of finicky eating that most children go through, but to young people (often preteen or teenage girls) who are suffering from the serious disease of anorexia nervosa.
Anorectics lose the ability to see themselves objectively. A girl who weighs only 70 pounds might still see herself as fat, even though she is literally starving herself to death.
Some early signs may be: changes in eating behavior, frequent weighing, inappropriate concern about losing weight, over-exercising, use of diuretics or laxatives, constipation, dry skin and hair, rashes, depressed behavior, etc.
If a teenager you know shows these signs, don't take a wait-and-see attitude. As a parent, take your child to a medical doctor and ask for a referral to someone who specializes in eating disorders. Call (800) 227-4785 for more information about the disorder. Teachers and parents can refer students to Kathy Khommanyvong, AEA school psychologist at (515) 574-5484.
Parents play a key role. Given the sensitivity of teens, parents will want to understand and monitor their own reactions and attitudes, too. Iowa's Teen Line can also provide information and referrals. Call (800) 443-8336.