Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia Nervosa

At we are all about weight loss… the healthy way. This article seeks to address symptoms of one of the commonest issues in matters weight loss: ANOREXIA NERVOSA. So, what are the symptoms of anorexia nervosa? Here’s more on the tell-tale signs that you are doing it the wrong way.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is a common eating disorder. Where a person is obsessed with obtaining a certain body shape. There is deliberate weight loss way less that it is recommended for height and age. Anorexia nervosa is characterized with intentional skipping of meals to the point of self-imposed starvation.

Lynn Crilly describes anorexia nervosa as an illness of the mind and not of the body.

Anorexics have a distorted image of themselves
Anorexics have a distorted image of themselves

Anorexia nervosa affects both men and women but it is most common in young teenage women. It develops over a period of years and is usually, it is accompanied by a number of psychological and physical signs. Among other things, persons affected may be genetically or emotionally predisposed.

Note that the earlier this disorder is detected, the better. This increases chances of an easier recovery process. Being aware of these symptoms is the first step in getting help for yourself or a loved one.

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

Physical symptoms of anorexia nervosa are usually related to the food starvation. Later on, the disorder cut into the behavioral and emotional aspects of a person. The signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa occur in two related dimensions;

  • Intentional and conscious refusal to eat to maintain an unrealistic perception of weight loss. This becomes an obsession which gradually becomes a compulsive habit.
  • Abnormal eating patterns become noticeable to people around. At a compulsive level, anorexia nervosa disrupts relationships, careers, and schooling.
  • A person is severely mentally distorted with an obsession that he or she is overweight.

What are the symptoms of anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa makes one believe that their self-worth lies entirely in how they look. The image is everything. On a severe note, you’ll tend to think people will approve more of you when you are thinner. Here are the symptoms to check out for if you are concerned for yourself or someone close to you.

Early Signs and Symptoms

  • Denying that you feel hungry even when starving
  • Eating very little
  • Deliberate refusal to eat
  • Skipping meals and making excuses for it
  • Obsession with body shape or size characterized by excessively weighing yourself and checking in the mirror
  • Eating a few chosen foods that one considers low in calories and fats
  • Obsessively weighing food
  • Eating rituals such as cutting food into tiny pieces
  • Lying about how much you actually weigh and wearing baggy clothes to hide it
  • Excessive exercising
  • Taking pills to slim and suppress appetite
  • May take laxatives or diuretics trying to get rid of fluids and food from the body
  • Inducing vomiting
  • Continuously complaining about being fat

Over time anorexia symptoms are viewed as positive results.

Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms from Starvation

The body needs nutrients from food to stay healthy and productive. We need food to get the right information for the proper functioning of the body. Little or lack of food grossly affects metabolic processes hence physical and health functions decline.

These are symptoms that are as a direct result of lack of nourishment.

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Light headed ness/ dizziness/ fainting
  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dry Skin
  • Hair Loss
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Sleeping problems
  • Often feel cold- cold hands and feet
  • Swelling of feet

Emotional and Psychological Symptoms in Anorexics

  • Lack of emotion- flat mood
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Obsessive or compulsive traits such as strictly measuring food
  • Depression
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Avoids eating in public
  • Feeling of ineffectiveness- tends to be defensive
  • May be suicidal

Societal pressure has greatly contributed to the increase in the number of teenagers and even adults obsessed with growing thinner. Pictures on social media and magazines with “ideal body shapes” sends a constant stream of bad modeling for young women seeking approval from themselves and other people.

People largely viewed as role models including actors/ actresses, athletes and models keep portraying unrealistically thin bodies as the perfect shape and sizes.

Complications of Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms

At the most severe stages, anorexia nervosa may cause a number of complications. Almost if not all body systems are disturbed. Organs including the heart, brain, and kidneys are damaged.

For example, Insufficient or low amounts of important minerals such as sodium and potassium cause abnormal heart rhythms which can be fatal. Other complications of anorexia nervosa include;

  • Bluish discoloration of fingers due to poor circulation
  • Heart problems
  • Poor wound healing due to impaired immune function
  • Anemia
  • Dental problems such as enamel erosion and cavities from acid due to vomiting
  • Bone loss due low levels of calcium, characterized by fractures especially later in life
  • Gastrointestinal complications such as constipation, bloating and ulcers
  • Kidney problems
  • Brain damage
  • Reduced testosterone in males characterized by low libido/ reduced interest in sex
  • Irregular menstruation in females
  • Infertility
  • Suicide
  • Death

Some complications that include organ damage may not be reversible even when the eating disorder has been controlled.

Anorexia nervosa in children affects growth characterized by delayed spurts. Affected children present with low weight for age and height and appear way smaller compared to their peers.

Older girls present with irregular periods which later complicates to absent period also known as amenorrhea.

Concurrent Symptoms to look out for

Most eating disorders occur concurrently with other health problems. Mental health is the most affected and will usually present with symptoms discussed below.

Other Disorders

Accompanying mental disorders that may co-exist with anorexia nervosa include depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorders. According to, these co-occurring disorders are usually very difficult to treat in conjunction with the eating disorders. Patients with co-occurring disorders need a more rigorous treatment plan as they are more complex challenges during recovery.

Abuse of Health Stimulants

While it has little or no effect, anorexics may take laxatives and diuretics trying to remove excess fluid and food from the body. There are many over the counter supplements and dietary pills that help to suppress appetite.

Other medications such as those used for ADHD suppress appetite as a side effect. Some of these medications are easily available over the counter without a prescription. Young people in schools can easily access these medications and are likely to misuse them.


A great desire to numb emotions and feelings of hunger make anorexics more vulnerable to alcoholism as compared to their peers. Inadequate control and failure to bring the desired emotional relief results in addiction to alcohol.


Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder particularly if it is accompanied by psychiatric disorders or substance abuse. If you or a loved one presents with signs and symptoms discussed above, take it as a strong indication to seek necessary treatment.

Most countries have centers with direct toll-free call lines that offer much-needed help to those affected. If these are not available in your country, feel free to walk into any health or counseling center for help.

Like bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders, anorexia nervosa can result in health complications, some are irreversible and may include death.

Here is a Video on Common Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa


NEDA Feeding Hope:

NHS Choices

Carry out an online self-assessment test also known as Anorexia Symptoms Test here

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