Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
Anorexia symptoms include:
- Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body type, age and activity level
- Intense fear or feeling of weight gain or being “fat” even though underweight
- Disturbance in the experience of body weight or shape, undue influence of weight or shape on self-evaluation or denial of the seriousness of low body weight
- Loss of menstrual periods in girls and women post-puberty
Some individuals with anorexia may also exhibit symptoms of bulimia, using self-induced vomiting and/or abuse of laxatives and diuretics for weight loss in addition to severely restricting food intake.
Our eating disorder experts have found that prompt, intensive treatment significantly improves the chances of anorexia recovery. At The Ranch mental health treatment center, we have a dedicated residence and program for eating disorders with highly trained specialists who help clients begin to heal physically. Our team also addresses underlying contributors to the disorder like trauma, anxiety, depression, attachment issues and environmental factors. Learn about our inpatient eating disorder program for women or call 866-569-8535.
Health Risks of Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa involves self-starvation. The body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally, so it is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy. This “slowing down” can have serious medical consequences. Some health risks of anorexia include:
- Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which means that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
- Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones
- Muscle loss and weakness
- Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure
- Fainting, fatigue and overall weakness
- Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common
- Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.
Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa
Women with anorexia suffer from a distorted body image and feel “fat” no matter how thin they get. They often reach weight loss goals only to set new ones. They will often try to hide extreme weight loss with baggy clothes or wear oversized clothes to hide their “fat.”
Warning signs of anorexia include:
- Dramatic weight loss
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams and dieting
- Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to strict restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g., no carbohydrates)
- Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss
- Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat”
- Denial of hunger
- Development of food rituals (e.g., eating foods in a certain order, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate)
- Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food
- Excessive, rigid exercise regimen that is maintained despite weather, fatigue, illness or injury in order to “burn off” calories
- Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
- Behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting and control of food are becoming primary concerns