Anorexia Nervosa

Having awareness, information and knowledge about anorexia and it’s signs and symptoms can make a huge difference to the duration and severity of the eating disorder. Seeking help at the first warning sign is much more effective than waiting until the eating disorder has fully taken hold. If you, or someone you know, is exhibiting some or a combination of these signs it is vital to seek help and support as soon as possible.

Someone with anorexia may display any combination of the following warning signs.

Physical Signs

  • Rapid weight loss or frequent weight changes
  • Loss or disturbance of menstruation in girls and women and decreased libido in men
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Feeling cold most of the time, even in warm weather
  • Feeling bloated, constipated, or the development of intolerances to food
  • Feeling tired all the time, but not sleeping well
  • Lethargy and low energy
  • Facial changes (e.g. looking pale, sunken eyes)
  • Fine hair appearing on face and body

Psychological Signs

  • Preoccupation/monitoring of eating, food, body shape and weight
  • Feeling anxious and/or irritable around meal times, and wanting to eat alone
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Unable to maintain a normal body weight for their age and height
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Reduced capacity for thinking and increased difficulty concentrating
  • ‘Black and white’ thinking (e.g. rigid thoughts about food being ‘good’ or ‘bad’)
  • Having a distorted body image (e.g. seeing themselves as overweight when they are actually underweight)
  • Low self esteem and perfectionism
  • Increased sensitivity to comments relating to food, weight, body shape, exercise
  • Extreme body image dissatisfaction

Behavioural Signs

  • Dieting behaviour (e.g. fasting, counting calories/kilojoules, avoiding food groups such as fats and carbohydrates)
  • Deliberate misuse of laxatives, appetite suppressants, enemas and diuretics
  • Repetitive or obsessive behaviours relating to body shape and weight (e.g. repeated weighing, looking in the mirror obsessively and pinching waist or wrists)
  • Evidence of binge eating (e.g. disappearance or hoarding of food)
  • Eating in private and avoiding meals with other people
  • Anti-social behaviour (spending more and more time alone)
  • Secrecy around eating (e.g. saying they have eaten when they haven’t, hiding uneaten food)
  • Compulsive or excessive exercising (e.g. exercising in bad weather, continuing to exercise when sick or injured, and experiencing distress if exercise is not possible)
  • Radical changes in food preferences (e.g. suddenly disliking food they have always enjoyed in the past, reporting of food allergies or intolerances, becoming vegetarian)
  • Obsessive rituals around food preparation and eating (e.g. eating very slowly, cutting food into very small pieces, insisting that meals are served at exactly the same time everyday)
  • Preoccupation with preparing food for others, recipes and nutrition
  • Self harm, substance abuse or suicide attempts

Getting help

Anorexia can be a life threatening eating disorder if left unattended, with a spiral into mental and physical problems. Recovery becomes more difficult if the eating disorder has been present for a long time, but recovery is possible with the right support and treatment.

Recovery aims

Anorexia treatment is forward-looking and not just about food and weight. Recovery is about building a new relationship with food, emotional strengthening, raising self worth and finding better ways of feeling in control. A good, trustful relationship is perhaps the most important part of recovery and ACFEB Approved Eating Disorder Practitioners are trained to understand anorexia and what it means.

We start with a full assessment, to help build a personalised treatment plan that can call upon other experts such as a dietitian or G.P. and sometimes the partners/parents or carers.

Anorexia treatment takes time and will focus on:

  • Understanding anorexia, and building motivation and commitment to change.
  • Nutritional guidance, firstly to deal with any emergencies, then to assist with weight change in a gentle and collaborative way.
  • Coping well with life and people; managing fear, panic, stress and unhappiness.
  • Managing perfectionism and anorexic thoughts.
  • Self worth and body image healing.

Take the next step

Would you like to know how you developed your eating disorder and what can be done to help you recover?

ACFEB Approved Eating Disorder Practitioners understand eating disorders, why it is so hard to change, and how it affects your life.

Are you ready to change?