Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that can destroy a person’s physical and mental health, and it can have fatal consequences. Put simply, a person with anorexia will take extreme and unhealthy measures to lose weight (or avoid weight gain). The causes of anorexia nervosa vary from person to person, but it can be triggered by low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, genetic predisposition, and traumatic experiences.
It is not easy to identify someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, as many people take steps to hide their eating habits and do not discuss their negative body image, and therefore diagnosis can take time. However, there are some common signs and symptoms to be aware of so that you can be ready to help a loved one if they start to display concerning behavior. While a formal diagnosis of anorexia nervosa can be complex as there are multiple factors which need to be considered, here are 7 of the common symptoms of anorexia nervosa.
Some people with anorexia nervosa will eat food and purge themselves by making themselves vomit, abusing diuretics or laxatives, or sometimes using enemas. This is done to inhibit the body from absorbing calories from food and can cause several health issues. There is more information on anorexia and potential health complications at edentreatment.com.
2. Obsessive behavior around food and calories
While it is not a problem to have an awareness of the nutritional values of food and drink, when a person becomes obsessed with tracking calories and records every bite and sip that they take, it could be a sign of disordered eating. When a person is worried about obsessively gaining weight, they may restrict their calories to an unhealthy level and/or eliminate entire food groups from their diet. This can impact a person’s physical health and mood due to nutrient deficiencies.
3. Unstable and/or fragile mental health
Eating disorders like anorexia are often connected to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and poor nutrition can lead to hormonal imbalances causing mood swings. People with anorexia can display perfectionist tendencies, a high level of self-control, and may be sensitive to criticism and feelings of failure.
4. Negative body image
Anorexia is often connected to poor body image, and sufferers tend to be deeply concerned about how attractive or unattractive they perceive themselves to be. Research has shown that people with anorexia tend to have an inaccurate perception of their physical appearance, believing themselves to be bigger than they are. They may also exhibit obsessive body checking behaviors such as measuring their bodies, pinching flesh, weighing themselves, and checking their reflection in a mirror.
5. Substance abuse
To suppress their appetite, boost energy, and temporarily soothe anxiety, depression, or other emotional issues, someone with anorexia might turn to alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, medications, diet pills, or even caffeine. This may mask their problems in the short term and lead to lots of other health complications and potentially substance addiction.
6. Excessive exercise regimen
To increase weight loss, some anorexia sufferers may also exercise excessively as well as restrict their diet. It is also not uncommon for exercise to become an obsession, and for the person to feel guilt or shame when they do not exercise.
7. Dramatic weight loss
Arguably one of the most noticeable signs of anorexia is extreme weight loss. An official diagnosis of anorexia tends to be given when a person’s BMI drops below 17.5. Of course, weight loss which happens gradually may not be easy to notice and is not always a sign of anorexia. So, if you have concerns about a loved one’s weight loss, all other potential symptoms must be considered before jumping to conclusions.