Anorexia In Children & Adolescents


ICD-10 Codes:

Unspecified type: F50.00

Restricting type: F50.01

Binge-eating/Purging type: F50.02

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is part of a cluster of diagnoses called the feeding and eating disorders.  Feeding and eating disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions that include:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Pica
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder

Feeding and eating disorders are characterized by a persistent disturbance in eating behaviors.  These disorders are linked to alterations in the consumption of food or absorption of nutrients, and can result in severe distress, physical health problems, and psychosocial impairment.  People with anorexia nervosa are significantly underweight because they eat very little food in an effort to lose weight or prevent weight gain.  People with binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa eat large quantities of food in a short period of time (called a "binge"); people with bulimia nervosa also attempt to prevent weight gain by compensating for these binges in an inappropriate way, usually by vomiting, excessively exercising, fasting, or misusing laxatives or other medications.  People with pica regularly eat non-nutritious, non-food substances.  People with avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder have little interest in food or avoid many types of foods, which results in nutrition deficits.

Several of these disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, are characterized by serious disturbances in body image and a preoccupation with weight and shape.  Other disorders, including pica and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, are characterized by atypical eating behaviors but are not prominently associated with body image disturbances.  Some feeding and eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, cause the individual to be significantly underweight or malnourished as a result of their eating behaviors.  Other disorders, including bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, do not produce marked weight loss and are typically associated with normal or higher than expected weight.

What is anorexia nervosa?

AN is a potentially life-threatening psychiatric disorder that affects 0.3 - 0.9% of adolescent females.  The disorder can occur in both girls and boys, but it is significantly (up to 10 times) more common in girls.  

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Understanding Anorexia Nervosa

AN is a potentially life-threatening condition.  In severe cases, AN can adversely affect the functioning of multiple major organ systems, resulting in the need for inpatient hospitalization and nutritional rehabilitation.

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How is anorexia nervosa treated?

AN is treatable.  Published treatment guidelines for AN include those from the American Psychiatric Association, the Society of Clinical Psychology, and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

The first step when treating AN is to evaluate the patient's physical health status and determine the level of care.

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