Anorexia Nervosa Signs & Symptoms

Drastic weight loss within a friend or relative is an obvious trait to look out for as a sign of anorexia. However during the early stages of the illness, weight loss may not be that significant. One of the first things to spot would be a change in behaviour and attitude towards others, for example becoming more short tempered, emotional or undergoing a dramatic reduction in confidence.

b-eat charityAnorexia is often associated with young females, however as the condition is often a coping method for an underlying issue such as depression or anxiety, anyone of any gender and at any age can suffer from this. Look out for any negative situations at home or within relationships which may have triggered the eating disorder, and monitor their eating habits. For example ask yourself the question "are they skipping meals?" or "are they avoiding certain foods?"

Culturally, body image is a prominent issue and the pressure to look a certain way is great. Look out for an obsession with looking a certain way and striving for a certain body shape, for example buying particular beauty magazines, an increase in exercising or visiting ‘pro-ana’ or ‘pro-mia’ websites.

Do I have anorexia?

Signs to be aware of that are common in people suffering from anorexia:

  • Limiting the amount that you eat and drink as a way of controlling calorie intake and body shape
  • Severe or significant weight loss over a short period of time and an unwillingness to gain weight
  • Exercising more than normal in an attempt to burn off the calories that you have consumed
  • Controlling food to bring a sense of control to your life
  • Strong feelings of 'fatness' for example thinking that you are ‘fat’ – this could also be a sign of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
  • Lack of menstrual periods
  • Reduction in sexual feelings - this could be due to a lack of body confidence
  • Infertility - a drastic side effect of anorexia in females is infertility
  • Brittle bones, hair and teeth due to a lack of calcium and other vital nutrients within diet
  • Heart and kidney problems - again, this is down to the lack of vital nutrients and low calorie intake placing pressure on the heart
  • Extreme tiredness and exhaustion due to starvation
  • Inability to make rational decisions due to chemical changes in the brain
  • Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts - these things may have already existed prior to the condition, however anorexia will have worsened these conditions
  • Self harming due to negative thoughts about body image or as a coping mechanism for depression or anxiety

What are the emotional symptoms of anorexia?

Alongside the physical symptoms of anorexia, you may experience some of the following emotional symptoms associated with anorexia nervosa:

  • Anger
  • Tiredness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of body confidence

The long-term effects of anorexia can be severe, and potentially fatal, with 10% to 20% of sufferers dying from anorexia and its effects. Fortunately, with the right treatment, many of these effects can be reduced and recovery from the disorder can be achieved.

7 tips to overcome the early signs of anorexia

  1. Understand and admit that you have a problem – this is a crucial first step to beating the condition
  2. Accept that your eating behaviours are dangerous and will need to change in order to recover
  3. Accept help from family, friends and professionals who only want the best for you
  4. Surround yourself with positive influences and remove any negativity as well as any temptations to relapse
  5. Make a step-by-step plan to conquering your eating disorder with a health professional
  6. Be honest with yourself and with family and friends about your condition and how you want to change
  7. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – anorexia is often a way of seizing control when there is too much stress or pressure, for example during exams or within work

For further information on eating disorders and the treatments available for anorexia nervosa, please call: 0845 277 4679.