Anorexia Nervosa: Everything You Should Know

Some of the following symptoms (objective experiences of illness) and signs (observable manifestations of the disease) may be shown by individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa. Eating disorders often don’t look like the stereotypical images frequently used in the media.


After a diagnosis has been established, family members and friends may sometimes say that they didn’t understand how many behaviors and changes were linked to the eating disorder. But anorexia nervosa impacts all aspects of a person’s life.

While it is a condition that disproportionately affects girls and often manifests in early to mid-adolescence, it may also be diagnosed in toddlers and older individuals and affects men and boys. Understanding that eating disorders may affect individuals of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, and those with different body types, weights, sexual preferences, and socioeconomic circumstances is crucial.

The fatal eating disorder anorexia nervosa has one of the highest death rates of any mental condition and is a potentially fatal psychiatric disorder. People with anorexia nervosa often deny that they are sick and may attempt to conceal their low weight.

Many individuals with anorexia nervosa do not exhibit all of the characteristics listed below, which is not a complete list of signs and symptoms. Additionally, these symptoms are not necessarily indicative of anorexia and might be caused by other illnesses.

Physical Symptoms

Not eating enough is a hallmark of anorexia nervosa. The body is deprived of vital nutrients, forcing it to conserve resources in an attempt to live, which leads to physical symptoms.

Many of these physical signs and symptoms are only seen in severe anorexia nervosa individuals. They could also be symptoms of other illnesses, so it’s essential to be checked out by a doctor to get the correct diagnosis and start getting treated.

  • Stomach discomfort
  • Anemic and prone to bruising
  • Cracked nails
  • Chilly fingers and toes
  • Constipation
  • Lanugo, the body’s attempt to preserve heat, refers to the downy hair covering the whole body.
  • Thin and dry hair
  • Severe dehydration
  • baldness on the scalp
  • Dizziness or a lack of balance (may experience fainting)
  • Decreased bone density (osteoporosis)
  • Delay in the onset of menstruation or loss of menstruation in females after adolescence (This was eliminated as a diagnostic criterion in the DSM-5 so males can meet the criteria for AN).
  • Reduced heart rate and blood pressure
  • Weakness and muscle loss
  • Dry, pale skin
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Extremely light body mass

Eating disorders may result in death.

Behavior-Related Symptoms

The relatives and acquaintances of an individual battling anorexia nervosa often notice these external signs. They could come to light a little earlier than specific bodily manifestations.

  • complains of stomach ache
  • cooks for others but denies eating what is prepared;
  • denies hunger
  • desperate to exercise even when it is inappropriate to do so, such as running in bad weather or skipping other commitments to exercise (in children, this may manifest as hyperactivity)
  • Eating unusual food combinations
  • obsessed with perfection
  • fatigue
  • insists on dressing in cold-weather clothing even when it is warm outside.
  • May hide foods to avoid eating them.
  • May act as if they are entirely fixated on cooking, cookbooks, cooking shows on television, or other food-related topics.
  • May hide foods to avoid eating them.
  • Refusal to consume certain foods or dietary categories (such as carbs or sweets)
  • Unusual dining rituals or habits, such as the insistence on only using certain utensils
  • abrupt and severe changes, such as being vegetarian or refusing to eat non-organic foods even when there are no other options available
  • talks about their fears of gaining weight or being fat even when they are losing weight
  • talks or thinks so much about food, weight, calories, and dieting that it interferes with normal conversation
  • talks about their fears of gaining weight or being fat even when they are losing weight
  • withdrawal from family and friends

Emotional Symptoms

It could be more challenging for someone outside to notice these symptoms. However, many members of the family and close friends would be able to recognize that their loved one is exhibiting some or all of these warning symptoms.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Determines value, beauty, or self-worth based on weight and appearance
  • Easily annoyed
  • Extremely self-critical
  • Lacks drive for relationships or other activities
  • Strong need for approval

It’s crucial to understand that not all people with anorexia nervosa are significantly underweight. People who have recently dropped a lot of weight and are what many would regard as “normal weight” might also be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Please get medical attention from a doctor or other healthcare provider if you or someone you know is displaying symptoms of anorexia nervosa.

A Discussion Guide for Anorexia

Print out our guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor’s visit.

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