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Anorexia Nervosa Can Start as Early as Seven Years Old

Update Date: Feb 25, 2013 11:35 AM EST

Anorexia Nervosa, an eating disorder in which the victim restricts food in order to lose weight is often linked to pre-teen and teenage girls. This common assumption that anorexia only affects these groups needs to be revisited and changed because anorexia can affect any one at any age. ABC News recently published the story about a seven-year-old girl named Sophie who did not have the usual risk factors or obvious symptoms associated with this disease but was suffering from anorexia. 

On the outside, Sophie appeared to be an average child. According to the pediatrician's growth chart, Sophie's height and weight were considered to be healthy and normal. Sophie also seemed to have an healthy appetite, always finishing her food. However, what her parents did not know was that Sophie was throwing out her snacks and sweets  as early as kindergarten. As she continued to age, Sophie started to eat smaller portions without any one noticing since anorexia is not often linked to small children. In addition, her appearance was not alarming enough to attract any one's attention. However, it was not until Sophie expressed her concerns over always feeling hungry but never being to eat that led to her diagnosis. 

Sophie was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in first grade after not being able to gain a single pound for 10 months. She had also fell into the 19th percentile on the weight charts. If Sophie never spoke out about her problems with food, she may never have gotten the help as early as she desperately needed it which is why increasing awareness surrounding eating disorders is so vital. Although anorexia is very rare among children Sophie's age, it can still manifest and severely stunt physical and mental growth. 

Common symptoms of anorexia is excessive weight loss through food restrictions, fear of being fat or getting fat despite already being underweight, and loss of menstrual periods for girls. Anorexia, when left untreated for a long period of time, can lead to heart failure, poor bone density leading to osteoporosis, muscle loss, dehydration leading to kidney failure, fainting, and hair loss. Roughly 90-95 percent of the victims are girls and women, and although anorexia typically starts in early to mid-adolescence, it can affect any one at any age. 0.5-1 percent of women suffer from this disease in America. Anorexia has one of the highest death rates in the mental illness category because it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Thus, it is extremely important to be aware of the symptoms.

For more information, visit the National Eating Disorders Association. It is also NEDAwarness week, which started on February 24 and ends on March 2, 2013. 

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