What are the Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa?

Unhappy woman sitting on rock wonders what are the symptoms of anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a common and life-threatening eating disorder characterized by weight loss, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted self-image of one’s body. The two most common types of anorexia nervosa are characterized by restrictive eating and by binging and purging behaviors.

The causes of anorexia are thought to be a combination of both biological and environmental factors.

Environmental factors contributing to the onset of anorexia nervosa include:

  • Media influences
  • Popular culture that equates thinness to beauty
  • Environmental pressures in family and peers
  • Traumatic experiences
  • External stressors
  • Occupational expectations in relation to body shape and size
  • Athletics focused on individual performance (particularly in sports where certain body types are more desired-like running, gymnastics, dance, wrestling, diving, etc.)

Some of the biological factors that can contribute to the onset of anorexia nervosa include family history and genetics, imbalanced hormones, and changes in brain chemistry due to substance use.  

If fear that someone you know or love could be suffering from anorexia nervosa, it is extremely important that you know how to recognize the signs and symptoms. The earlier the condition is addressed and treated, the greater the likelihood that a person with anorexia nervosa can make a full recovery from the disorder. Keep in mind, both women and men can experience anorexia despite the stereotype that anorexia is a woman’s disorder. Approximately 10 million men in the United States suffer from an eating disorder (mostly in silence), so it is crucial to pay attention to warning signs for the men in our lives as well. Here are some of the signs and symptoms that a person with anorexia nervosa may display:

  • Obsession with body size/shape
  • In depth knowledge of calories
  • Refusal to eat
  • Skipping meals
  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Denial of hunger
  • Eating mostly foods low in calories
  • Food rituals (such as cutting food into pieces)
  • Cooking meals for others but not eating what is prepared
  • Isolation from family/friends
  • Frequent bathroom trips after meals
  • Excessive exercise
  • Difficulty concentrating/Slower cognition
  • Other mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.
  • Struggles with substance abuse
  • Low energy levels and sleeps more than usual
  • An irregular menstrual cycle
  • Irritability when asked about eating habits
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Dry hair and dry skin
  • Hair loss (sometimes)
  • Lanugo (fine hair that develops on different parts of body to assist with maintaining warmth)

Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any eating disorder or mental illness. And for females between 15 and 24, the mortality rate of anorexia is 12 times higher than the mortality rate of any other illness (including physical ailments), but only one-third of individuals with anorexia nervosa get the treatment that they need.

Recovery from anorexia is challenging but life-saving. Magnolia Creek Treatment Center for Eating Disorders specializes in assisting women in moving from being controlled by their eating disorders to regaining control of their life through a variety of holistic approaches addressing the needs of each woman’s mind, body, and spirit. We are located on a private lakefront setting near Birmingham, Alabama and offer a healing refuge to start your recovery journey. To learn more about how Magnolia Creek may be able to support you or your loved one in taking the first step towards a life of freedom, please call our team at 205-409-4220 or fill out our contact form.



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