Anorexia Nervosa: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Anorexia Nervosa is a serious eating disorder that is treatable but can be life-threatening without intervention. With over 200,000 individuals in the United States impacted per year and the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, it is important to learn the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for this disorder. In this article, we shall discuss anorexia nervosa: symptoms, causes, and treatment.

Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by the National Institute of Mental Illness as individuals that have “a significant and persistent reduction in food intake leading to extremely low body weight; a relentless pursuit of thinness; a distortion of body image and intense fear of gaining weight; and extremely disturbed eating behavior.

If you have anorexia, you might believe you’re carrying more weight or that your body is larger than it actually is.

Anorexia nervosa symptoms can impact both your physical and your emotional well-being. They can also add friction to your relationships with significant others.

Treatment for anorexia can help you manage your symptoms and recover from the condition.

Anorexia Recovery: Self-Care Tips

Reaching out for support can be a form of self-love. Even if you’re working with a health professional, self-care can support the anorexia recovery process.

Some ways to care for yourself as you recover from anorexia nervosa include:

  • Talking with people you trust. Connecting with a supportive loved one may help with feeling heard and encouraged.
  • Reconsidering boundaries. Some find certain activities or relationships bring back bad memories of anorexia, making it harder to heal. Creating mindful boundaries around these things could help.
  • Joining a support group. You can find many online support groups for anorexia. It can be therapeutic to hear others’ stories and share your own.

How to help someone with anorexia nervosa

Many people recovering from anorexia say the support of family and friends played a key role in their getting well.

Here are some ways you can help your loved one with anorexia:

  • Learn about anorexia. Read books and articles, watch videos, or listen to podcasts. Learning to tell fact from fiction can help you offer the best support.
  • Before you approach them about their condition, prepare what you want to say. Some people find it helpful to write down notes.
  • Pick a good time and place to talk. Make sure it’s in a private area and at a convenient time so you won’t feel rushed.
  • Be patient and supportive. Fully listen to what they’re saying. Then you can explain why you’re concerned. Try to stick to the facts: “I noticed you haven’t been eating dinner with us lately.”
  • Avoid topics that may create negative experiences for your loved one. Don’t make ultimatums, comment on weight and appearance, shame or blame, or offer simple solutions like “just start eating” because anorexia is a complex disorder that requires proper medical care.
  • Help your loved one explore treatment options if they’re open to it. You can also offer to help them take the first steps, like setting up an appointment.

But when someone with anorexia does seek support — either on their own or with the help of a loved one — the right treatment can make a big difference.

Anorexia is an eating disorder that involves both the mind and body. For people with anorexia, treatment can have a huge impact on their physical and emotional well-being.

Many anorexia treatment options are available. Seeking out social support and learning more about anorexia can also help. Living with anorexia can be an isolating experience, but you don’t have to manage it alone.

Anorexia Symptoms And Signs

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa involve fear and worry about food intake, weight, and how your body looks.

Anorexia nervosa, also called anorexia, is an eating disorder that causes people to restrict how much food they eat. Symptoms of anorexia vary in intensity from person to person but often develop around a preoccupation with body weight.

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa can take a toll on your physical, emotional, and mental health.

One of the main symptoms is the fear of gaining weight. Often, when you have anorexia, you might have a view of your body that doesn’t line up with facts. You might see your body as larger than it really is.

Anorexia symptoms can affect anyone regardless of gender, sexuality, age, race, or other demographics. Learning about anorexia can help you explore treatment options for you or someone you know.

Anorexia nervosa symptoms

With anorexia, you may experience several physical, mental, or behavioral symptoms.

Not everyone with anorexia nervosa classifies within the low weight range. Some people who have lost a lot of weight due to anorexia are still considered to be in the average or above-average weight range for their age and height. This is called atypical anorexia.

Takeaway: Whether or not you have a smaller body, you could still be experiencing anorexia.

A behavioral sign of anorexia is limiting how much you eat and the kind of foods you eat in a way that impacts your day-to-day life and mental health.

Physical symptoms of anorexia

Living with anorexia may mean you have constant thoughts about food, weight, and the way your body looks. This will impact your eating and exercise habits, for example.

These changes may, in turn, lead you to experience the following physical symptoms of anorexia:

  • weight loss
  • hair loss
  • dry skin
  • dry and brittle nails
  • feeling cold all the time
  • fainting or feeling light-headed

Not everyone with anorexia will have these physical symptoms, though.

Many of the physical symptoms of anorexia are closely related to significant and abrupt weight loss and the health problems it may cause. But the way anorexia looks can vary from person to person.

Psychological symptoms of anorexia

Anorexia can cause you to practice food rituals to avoid gaining weight. These rituals may affect the way you think and feel.

These psychological symptoms of anorexia may include:

  • intrusive and irrational thoughts about weight, food, and dieting
  • persistent changes in your mood
  • symptoms of depression
  • feeling “flat” or a lack of emotions
  • feeling anxious, guilty, irritable, or ashamed
  • body image distortion (thinking you look larger than you actually are)

Behavioral symptoms of anorexia

In addition to limiting foods, people with anorexia may feel ashamedTrusted Source or secretive about their behaviors and try to hide them. Sometimes people with anorexia avoid eating meals with others, which can add to their sense of isolation.

Other behavioral symptoms of anorexia include:

  • wearing a lot of layers or baggy clothes
  • eating small amounts of food
  • avoiding certain types of food
  • constantly eating alone and avoiding meal time with others or in public
  • having a rigid exercise routine
  • isolating from others
  • rigid thinking around food and weight (i.e., food is either good or bad)

Over time, these behaviors can also make you feel cut off from the people around you.

What are the early signs of anorexia?

Anorexia can be difficult to spot. Many people with anorexia are secretive about their eating disorders. And some people experiencing anorexia symptoms don’t recognize when these are impacting their health and relationships.

Early signs of anorexia may include:

  • gradually or abruptly decreasing amounts of food or skipping meals
  • suddenly adopting a special and strict diet
  • spending a lot of time cooking or preparing food
  • avoiding meal times, especially in groups or in public
  • isolating and spending a lot of time alone
  • negatively commenting regularly on own appearance or weight

What are the types of anorexia?

There are two types of anorexia nervosa: restricting type and binge eating or purging type. Symptoms of anorexia may vary according to which type you live with.

Restricting type

If you have an anorexia-restricting type, you may limit your food intake and the types of food you eat.

Binge eating/purging type

The binge eating and purging type of anorexia causes people to eat large amounts of food at once and then purge.

Binge eating/purging type anorexia has common anorexia symptoms but also includes challenges related to purging like:

  • swelling around the jaw area (a sign of ongoing vomiting)
  • going to the bathroom or “disappearing” after eating
  • dental problems such as teeth being discolored or stained
  • stomach problems such as constipation or acid reflux

Excessive exercise can also happen with either anorexia type. It’s not uncommon for someone to experience both types of anorexia simultaneously or at different times.

When to seek help for anorexia

If you think you could have anorexia symptoms, you’ll want to seek care.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates of any mental health condition.

A supportive medical professional can accurately diagnose your symptoms and provide you with treatment options that can help.

Treatment recommendations for anorexia vary but can include:

  • medication
  • working with a nutritionist
  • therapy

Many people receive treatment at an outpatient level, meaning they work with a treatment team while living at home. Some people need more intensive treatment, which can mean being treated at a hospital or a residential treatment facility.

Your treatment level will depend on how much support you need in your recovery.

For some people, meeting with a medical professional isn’t possible. Taking this quiz may help you determine if your experiences may be related to an eating disorder. Nevertheless, only a medical professional can accurately diagnose your condition.

In addition, online eating disorder support groups or helplines can be supportive, and educational, and help you feel less alone.

I think a loved one might have an eating disorder. What can I do?

Helping someone with an eating disorder starts with encouraging them to seek treatment.

Many people with anorexia don’t ask for help. They may feel ashamed about their symptoms or not see that their eating habits are causing them harm.

Talking with your loved one about your concerns can be difficult. Before speaking with your loved one, it can be helpful to:

  • Learn about eating disorders. Having accurate information can help you explain your concerns to your loved one.
  • Avoid judgment. Tell your loved one that it’s not shameful to have an eating disorder, and recovery is possible.
  • Avoid superficial solutions. Stopping eating disorder behaviors isn’t about willpower. It’s not helpful to tell your loved one to “just eat” or “stop purging.”

It can be hard to know what to do if you think someone you care about is experiencing signs of anorexia. This guide from the National Eating Disorders Association could help if you’re looking for more info.

In conclusion, symptoms of anorexia involve a significant focus on food and your body. This can be exhausting.

Many of the habits that stem from eating disorders can, over time, separate you from the people you care about and the activities you enjoy. But even though it may feel as if it’s just you and anorexia, you’re not alone.

People who experience anorexia symptoms might not realize how common it is to feel shame related to their eating disorder, and this can make it very hard to share your experience with others.

Sharing your experience can help you to realize that living with an eating disorder is not shameful.

If you think you might have anorexia, consider seeking care. A healthcare professional can help you find treatment options that will support you through recovery.

While anorexia is a serious condition, with treatment, recovery is possible.

I hope you find this article helpful as well as interesting.

About the Author

A Public Speaker and Freelancer who is Interested in Writing articles relating to Personal Development, Love and Marriage.

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