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What is Anorexia Nervosa?

by Amanda Collins

Anorexia can dominate sufferers’ lives, becoming the focus of every waking moment. Food becomes evil, and the battle against something that the body needs to survive becomes all-consuming.

Mentally, physically and emotionally it is exhausting and heartbreaking. The constant thinking about food, starvation, exercise, guilt, planning, sneaking and shame, all day, every day led by a militant inner voice which never rests.

It is also terrifying for those close to the sufferer, as they watch the battle play out, and their loved one literally starve themselves and waste away.

But there is hope. Anorexia is a mental health condition, and treatment is available. Sufferers can be cured, and go on to live full, rich and healthy lives.

Picking up the signs of anorexia and seeking professional treatment is the key to recovery, and so with that in mind, below you will find a list of the symptoms of the condition.

help for anorexia

When going through this list keep in mind that sufferers may not present with every single symptom, but they will definitely suffer from a number of them, enough to notice a condition is present.

Signs of anorexia:


  • Fast weight loss and serious fluctuations in weight and body shape
  • Light-headedness, fainting or frequent dizzy spells
  • Tired all the time and low energy levels
  • Disrupted sleep or insomnia
  • Sudden food intolerances
  • Constipation
  • Cold most of the time
  • Pale skin
  • Development of fine hair on face and body
  • Changes in menstrual cycles (for females)
  • Decreased libido
  • Frequent headaches
  • Wearing baggy clothes


  • Obsession with weight, food and exercise
  • Anxiety, particularly around food and meal times
  • Increased irritability
  • Fear of weight gain
  • Hard to concentrate, fuzzy thinking
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem and self-loathing
  • Black and white thinking around food (food is either good or bad)
  • Perfectionism
  • Sees their own body radically differently to how others view it (body dysmorphia)
  • Extreme sensitivity to comments around appearance and food
  • Secretive about food and eating


  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Avoiding places, activities and events that they used to enjoy
  • Misusing laxatives, stimulants or appetite suppressants
  • Obsessed with weight and body shape (they may weigh themselves often or spend a long time looking in mirrors)
  • Eating in private
  • Lying about eating
  • Hiding uneaten food
  • Over exercising or exercising even when sick
  • Compulsive behaviours with food (eating at the same time every day, cutting food into very small bites etc)
  • Fixation with making food for others
  • Obsessed with nutrition

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