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Understanding Anorexia Athletica: the signs, symptoms and support available

With anorexia athletica, a person will experience an all-consuming need to exercise.

Exercising excessively is a compulsion that is commonly experienced by those with eating disorders, often to maintain a low weight. For those suffering from anorexia athletica, it is this obsession that poses the serious threat of long-term damage.

Within this blog, we look at the signs and symptoms of anorexia athletica alongside the support and treatment available for those suffering from this particular eating disorder.

What is anorexia athletica?

Anorexia athletica, also known as athletic anorexia or sports anorexia, is a variation of anorexia nervosa that has started to become recognised as an eating disorder in its own right.

With anorexia athletica, you will feel as though you need to exercise constantly, regardless of the physical and emotional impact it may be having. Like with anorexia nervosa, you will also have an all-consuming preoccupation with achieving or maintaining a low weight.

This fixation can be very dangerous. It can start to take over your entire life, with exercise prioritised above anything else. This can then start to take a severe toll on your relationships, work and of course, their overall happiness and enjoyment of life.

What are the common signs and symptoms of anorexia athletica?

The symptoms of anorexia athletica can differ from person-to-person, but common signs of a serious problem can include:

  • Feeling the need to exercise constantly, which verges on or becomes an addiction
  • Putting a huge pressure on yourself to maintain a certain weight
  • Exercising whether or not you feel physically or emotionally energised
  • Feeling significant guilt if any exercise routines are missed
  • Worrying excessively about how other people see you
  • Putting exercise above everything and everyone else in your life
  • Carrying out exercise sessions in secret to hide your habits
  • Restricting the amount of food you eat

It is important to know that the causes of anorexia athletica, as with any eating disorder, are complex. Like any mental health challenge, anorexia athletica can develop for any number of reasons.

How to get help if you think you have anorexia athletica

If you are exercising to the point where it feels extremely painful, is causing you emotional distress, affecting your relationships or leaving you with little time for anything else, it is so important for you to reach out and seek support.

We understand that you may feel guilty or embarrassed. However, you don’t need to be ashamed. What you are going through is more common than you think. Eating disorders are often an unplanned reaction to something which has happened in your life, or to emotions that you have found difficult to process.

Opening up to someone you trust about what you are going through could be the best thing you do for yourself. They can help you to take the crucial steps towards seeking professional support, which can often feel much easier with a supportive friend or loved one by your side.

Accessing professional treatment for anorexia athletica

At Priory, we can help you to start your recovery journey and take the all-important steps to recovering your health and happiness.

Together, we can plan a suitable course of treatment and support you on the path to a happier future, with significant relief from your current symptoms.

We will design a programme around your own unique situation and needs, helping you to work towards your personal goals for the future. Whatever level of support you require, we can give you the appropriate care to start enjoying a healthier relationship with food and yourself. If you are showing early signs of harmful behaviours, our Arthur House site offers alternative residential treatment for those looking to avoid hospitalisation, as well as a day care programme.

If more intensive therapeutic services are required then Life Works, our renowned rehabilitation centre in Surrey, treats those who have been diagnosed with a range of eating disorders on an inpatient basis. If you are looking for more flexible outpatient treatment, our nationwide wellbeing centres can help you to fit therapy appointments around your schedule and commitments. You can also undertake outpatient therapy appointments online, with Priory Connect, our remote online therapy service.

Whatever services you require, or stage you are at in your journey, our experts have the specialist knowledge and experience to help you progress with recovering your self-esteem and move onto the next phase of recovery.

Get in Touch Today

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding eating disorder treatment, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

Blog reviewed by Steve Clarke (MSc, PGDip, FdSc, MBACP (Accred)), Hospital Director at Priory’s Life Works and Arthur House, 

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