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What are the Symptoms & Signs of Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that can cause many health and behavioral issues. If you or someone you know might be experiencing anorexia, there are a number of signs and symptoms to look for.

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. There are two types of symptoms for anorexia nervosa: medical symptoms and behavioral warning signs.

Medical Symptoms

When learning more about the signs and symptoms of anorexia, it’s important to understand the medical symptoms one may be experiencing. Although these symptoms will vary from person to person, these are the most common symptoms of anorexia.

Low Weight

For someone who is experiencing anorexia nervosa, a common symptom may be low weight. Low weight may not always be obvious and will depend on a person’s age, sex, developmental stage and physical health. Low weight can be defined as weight less than minimally normal or expected (for growing children and adolescents).

Dramatic Weight Loss

Besides having a low body weight, someone who is experiencing anorexia may have a significant or dramatic decrease in their weight. It is important to be aware of marked weight loss occurring over a short period of time.

Exercise

Another sign that someone may have anorexia is when they are demonstrating excessive or compulsive exercise. Exercise routines can become extreme and interfere with daily life activities.

Many people who exhibit compulsive exercise may feel the need to work out several times a day, even cancelling plans or staying away from social situations to do so.

Bradycardia

A serious symptom of anorexia is bradycardia, which is when someone’s heart beats at a lower rate than normal, which is 60 beats per minute [1]. This occurs in about 95% of patients with anorexia, and is due to the conservation of energy in the nervous system [1].
[1] https://www.acute.org/resource/bradycardia-anorexia

Lack of Menses

Someone who is suffering from anorexia may also experience an absence of or delayed onset of their menstrual cycle or experience a lighter than normal menstrual cycle.

Hypotension and Orthostasis

When someone with an eating disorder isn’t getting the right amount of nutrition, they may experience low blood pressure (below 90/60 mm Hg) and orthostasis, which occurs when your blood pressure drops due to the position of the body (example: standing versus sitting).

Hair Thinning/Loss

Finally, another physical symptom one may experience is hair thinning or hair loss due to nutritional deficiencies.

Behavioral Warning Signs

Besides physical symptoms of anorexia, there are also behavioral warning signs that one may be exhibiting while suffering from this eating disorder. Family members or friends can often identify these warning signs below.

Extreme Weight Loss

One of the most common warning signs when observing someone with anorexia nervosa is that they recently lost an extreme amount of weight over time, such as seeing someone for the holidays or back at school after a break.

Calorie Restriction

If you observe someone restricting their calories or food intake, this could be a sign of anorexia.

Food Obsession

Another warning sign is witnessing someone who appears to be preoccupied with food, their weight or calorie intake. They may keep track excessively and may also have an obsession with dieting behaviors. Sometimes an interest in preparing food for others may develop.

Sudden Interest in Diet

Having a sudden interest in a diet could be another sign of an eating disorder. This person might be researching diets, have a diet app or might be sharing their interest in a new diet or fad.

Fear of Weight Gain

Someone who has an extreme fear of weight gain may be suffering from an eating disorder. They may weight themselves excessively, make comments about “feeling fat,” keep track of their weight daily and get upset if they’ve gained or haven’t lost weight.

Refusal of Food

Another warning sign of anorexia is the refusal of food. This may start out as just a small change but can expand to include more and more foods – ultimately whole food groups.

This can occur in many different age groups, but it’s common in those who have a fear of gaining weight due to their eating disorder

Strange Eating Habits or Food Rituals

There may be other eating habits or rituals involving food that someone with anorexia can experience. This could be counting foods, such as crackers or pieces of fruit or cutting up food into small pieces, excessive chewing, etc.

Denial of Hunger or Weight Loss

Someone exhibiting eating disorder behaviors may be in denial when it comes to their weight loss or even deny that they are ever hungry.

Compulsive Exercising

Although this is a physical symptom, compulsive exercising is also a behavioral habit that one with anorexia nervosa may take part in.

Social Withdrawal

Finally, someone who is withdrawing from their favorite social gatherings or who loses interest in their friends or family may be showing signs of an eating disorder.

Seek Treatment to Get to the Bottom of Your Anorexia Symptoms

Anorexia is an incredibly serious illness. But, thankfully, anorexia treatment offers each individual a chance for full recovery.

If you suspect that you, or someone you know, may need help for anorexia, seek a medical and psychological evaluation as quickly as possible. If left untreated, there can be far-reaching and possibly life-threatening health consequences.

Please call us at 877-825-8584 to schedule a free confidential consultation with an Eating Recovery Center Masters-level clinician so we can help you learn more about effective treatment options for eating disorders.

What is anorexia nervosa?

Although research about anorexia nervosa is ongoing, there is a lot you can learn about this eating disorder to understand how to get help or help a loved one. Learn more about anorexia, including the causes, symptoms and available treatment options.

What causes anorexia?

As with other eating disorders, anorexia has no singular cause. However, the evolving scientific literature suggests that this pattern of disordered eating develops from a complex interplay between genetic, psychological and sociocultural factors.

What are the health risks associated with anorexia?

There are many health risks associated with anorexia nervosa. Learn about the short-term and long-term risks to understand the effects of this disorder.

How is anorexia treated?

Anorexia treatment is unique to each patient’s needs. Medical stabilization, psychiatric stabilization, nutritional rehabilitation and weight restoration (when appropriate) are considered when determining a patient’s treatment plan.

Learn about anorexia facts and statistics.

There are many misconceptions about anorexia, including the fact that it is simply being too thin.

Do I have anorexia? Take our Anorexia Quiz.

If you or a loved one struggle with some of the symptoms described here, it may be worth speaking with a clinician and considering treatment options.

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