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What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is the most deadly mental illness, with a higher mortality (death) rate than any other mental illness. Due to this complexity, this condition requires comprehensive anorexia treatment from an experienced, multidisciplinary approach to include medical and psychiatric stabilization, nutritional intervention and psychological support.

Symptoms & Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

One of the most common misconceptions about anorexia nervosa is that sufferers are underweight, which is not always the case. In many instances, a patient with anorexia may appear to be healthy when they are actually malnourished. That’s why it’s important to understand all the warning signs and symptoms of anorexia.

Medical Symptoms

Low Weight

Weight at or below 85 percent of Ideal Body Weight (IBW) for age

Dramatic Weight Loss

Significant/dramatic decrease in normal growth chart curve for weight


Excessive or compulsive exercise

Lack of Menses

Absence of or delayed onset of or sporadic/light menses


Fatigue, cold-intolerance, dizziness and/or hair thinning/loss

Behavioral Warning Signs

Extreme weight loss

Calorie Restriction

Food obsession

Obsession with food, weight, calories and/or dieting

Fear of weight gain

Strange eating habits or food rituals

Denial of hunger or weight loss

Compulsive exercising

What Causes Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is a bio-psycho-social illness, meaning that biological, psychological and sociocultural aspects contribute to the development of the illness. This means that anorexia – or any eating disorder, for that matter – is not a choice. There are clear causes of anorexia that individuals need to be aware of.

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Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness

The most serious health risk of anorexia is an increased mortality rate. Other health risks associated with anorexia are also very serious, including:

  • Cardiac complications (ranging from irregular heart rhythms to heart failure)

  • Heart, kidney and liver failure

  • Bone loss/osteoporosis

  • Anemia

  • Electrolyte imbalances

  • Low blood sugar

  • Constipation, bloating and other gastrointestinal issues

  • Amenorrhea (loss of menses in women)

  • Fertility challenges

  • Low testosterone (in males)

  • Suicide

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How is Anorexia Nervosa Treated?

At Eating Recovery Center, treatment for anorexia begins with medical and psychiatric stabilization, including nutrition, rest, medication and management of co-occurring conditions as needed to restore stability and sufficient awareness to engage in therapeutic treatment.

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Is recovery from anorexia nervosa possible?

The good news is that, with proper treatment, a full and lasting recovery from anorexia is possible. If you think that you or a loved one might need help, please take our short anorexia self-assessment test or call us at 877-825-8584 to schedule a free, confidential consultation with an Eating Recovery Center Masters-level clinician.

Eating Recovery Center is the nation’s only vertically integrated healthcare system dedicated to the treatment of eating disorders, like anorexia, at all levels of care. ERC's anorexia treatment center includes inpatient treatment, residential treatment, partial hospitalization treatment and intensive outpatient treatment.

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Eating Recovery Center is accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval™ have met or exceeded The Joint Commission’s rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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