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This page was medically reviewed by Dr Murali Sekar, Medical Director & Consultant Psychiatrist in Eating Disorders, at Priory Hospital Chelmsford in october 2022.

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that can lead you to develop problems with your eating habits. It often causes you to become obsessed with your weight, body shape and what other people think of how you look.

People with anorexia tend to become preoccupied with keeping their weight as low as possible. In order to achieve this, they may reduce the amount of food they eat, and try to remove calories from their body using unhealthy methods such as making themselves sick after eating, abusing laxatives and exercising excessively. Making yourself sick can be a manifestation of anorexia too, even though it is sometimes seen as more of a characteristic of bulimia.

Anorexia symptoms

The signs and symptoms of anorexia can vary from person to person, and can be categorised into psychological, physical and behavioural/social symptoms.

If you’re struggling with the symptoms of anorexia you’ll usually have:

  • An unhealthy obsession with being thin
  • An overwhelming fear of gaining weight
  • Intentional restriction of dietary intake to cause weight loss or maintain low weight
  • A distorted body image (causing you to think you’re fat, even when other people say you’re thin)
  • Preoccupation with eating, food, body weight, image and/or shape concerns, resulting in significant interruption in your physical, emotional, social and/or work aspects of life
  • Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress and panic attacks
  • Suicidal thoughts and self-harming tendencies

Alongside these psychological and behavioural symptoms, you will likely experience physical symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry/yellowish skin
  • Always feeling cold
  • Heart palpitations and bradycardia (abnormally low heart rate)
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Tooth decay, bad breath and scars on the knuckles as a result of induced vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
Eating disorder treatment at Life Works

Life Works, Surrey, is known for its expert inpatient eating disorder service, helping those struggling with anorexia get their life back on track. 

Day treatment services and outpatient services are also available. 


Book a free assessment

How we treat anorexia nervosa

Our team of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, dietitians and other eating disorder experts can deliver individually tailored anorexia treatment at our specialist hospitals and wellbeing centres.

At our locations, we can help you:

  • Address the causes and triggers for your irrational fears and unhealthy eating habits
  • Tackle your dysfunctional behaviours
  • Improve your health, wellbeing and quality of life, and support you to get back on track
  • Develop a healthier relationship with food
  • Address the underlying issues that may be making your anorexia worse
  • Improve your self-esteem
  • Learn effective coping strategies to manage anorexia in the future
  • Identify triggers for your unhealthy eating habits and give you techniques to overcome them

The type and length of the treatment you’ll receive at Priory depends on your individual circumstances and how severe your anorexia is.

We can provide specialist anorexia treatment on an outpatient, day care or inpatient (residential) basis, which is bespoke to you and tailored according to the intensity of the support you need. You can read more about these different treatment options on our approach to eating disorder treatment page.

Therapy for anorexia

The most recent therapy techniques, namely the Maudsley Model of Anorexia Nervosa Treatment for Adults (MANTRA) and enhanced cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-E) are widely available in our centres. In addition, we have other National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended treatments for anorexia, namely focal dynamic psychotherapy, CBT-based interventions and family-based interventions.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for anorexia

One of the most widely used therapy methods in anorexia treatment is CBT. This type of therapy has been found to be a flexible and effective treatment method for lots of different mental health conditions and eating disorders, and is used all over the world.

CBT is based on the idea that eating disorders, such as anorexia, are driven by negative thought patterns, which can result in you:

  • Struggling to make healthy choices when it comes to food
  • Having a lack of belief in your ability to recover from your eating disorder

At Priory, we use CBT to challenge and change these negative thought patterns in order to change the negative behaviours they’re associated with. Our CBT experts will work closely with you, helping you to:

  • Identify your irrational beliefs around food and body image
  • Develop an understanding of why these negative beliefs developed in the first place
  • Encourage you to replace these beliefs, with more positive thought patterns

Other specialist eating disorder interventions

Our expert treatment teams can also provide a range of therapeutic techniques that have been designed specifically to help people with eating disorders. These include:

  • Dietetic input
  • Supported meals
  • Food exposure techniques
  • Body image workshops
  • Nasogastric feeding
Emma's Story

Emma’s* parents, were worried about their 16 year old; for over a year she had been on a diet that didn’t seem to stop.

After fainting at school and being hospitalised, Emma's parents knew she needed help. Tests showed Emma had low bradycardia and hypothermia and had to have repeated blood tests and an electrocardiogram (ECG). She was nursed on bed rest with 24-hour care, and was prescribed a gradually increasing diet by the dietitian.

As her weight went up, Emma's started participating in Priory’s intensive therapy programme and was allocated an individual therapist. Emma particiapted in individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy, focusing on body image, CBT, and nutritional information. 

16 weeks later, on discharge, Emma had gained control over her eating disorder and was happy spending time with her friends and family again, and going back to school. 

Read more about Emma's eating disorder story here. 

Our anorexia nervosa treatment centres

At Priory, we know that eating disorders are complex conditions and are unique to each individual. That’s why we tailor our eating disorder and anorexia treatment programmes to meet the personal needs of each patient, offering specialised therapy on a flexible and bespoke basis. We make sure that you’re involved in all decisions that are made about your care, and are placed at the heart of your treatment journey. This produces the best possible outcomes for you as an individual.

Our specialist treatment settings are supportive, compassionate and provide the perfect place for you to:

  • Address your challenges
  • Receive world class eating disorder support
  • Take steps towards recovery and wellbeing

We also offer online therapy for anorexia. This allows you to access support at a time and place that's convenient for you.

Young people and anorexia

At Priory, we don’t just treat adults with anorexia. We can also provide tailored eating disorder help for patients under the age of 18. We also provide a full education programme for the young people in our care. This includes a range of educational services and accredited on-site assessment facilities to ensure the young people we look after receive a continuous education while they’re with us, suitable to their needs and abilities.

Support for families and loved ones

We understand that it can be incredibly stressful when a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder. That's why we also provide one-to-one support for the families, carers and loved ones of our eating disorder patients. Feedback states how helpful and crucial these sessions are for the family members of those with an eating disorder diagnosis, helping them to:

  • Manage their own experience of their loved one's eating disorder recovery
  • Become better equipped to understand and support their loved one through their recovery

For more information about our family support sessions, please visit our approach to eating disorder treatment page.


Can I recover from anorexia?
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Will I have to go into hospital to receive treatment?
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How does anorexia affect family life?
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What causes anorexia?
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What if I'm in crisis?
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Get in Touch Today

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding eating disorder treatment, please call 0330 056 6020 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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