Symptoms of AnorexiaAnorexia symptoms frequently develop over a period of years in women and men with certain genetic or emotional pre-dispositions and become more evident during periods of major life transitions like loss of a loved one, going to college, marriage or divorce.

Anorexia Nervosa is a life threatening eating disorder where the individual experiences dramatic weight loss and practices self-starvation, depriving their body of the nutrients needed to function normally. Early diagnosis and treatment significantly improves the chances of recovery, so understanding the signs and symptoms of anorexia can save someone’s life.

Emotional and behavioral characteristics of anorexia include:

  • Refusal to eat certain food groups (i.e. carbohydrates or ‘fattening foods’)
  • Food rituals like excessive chewing, eating food in a certain order, and rearranging food on a plate
  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height
  • Denial of seriousness of current low body weight
  • Food restriction and denial of hunger
  • Distorted view of one’s body weight or shape
  • Intense fear or anxiety of gaining weight, even if underweight
  • Secretive about eating or exercise behavior
  • Excessive exercise, defined as rigid regimens of 2+ hours a day
  • Lack of emotion
  • Irritability and/or mood swings
  • Pre-occupation or obsessive thoughts about food, weight and appearance
  • Skipping meals or making excuses not to eat
  • Reduced interest in sex
  • Perfectionism and/or obsessive compulsive behaviors
  • Depressed mood and social withdrawal from friends, family and activities
  • Possible use of purging behavior (i.e. self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives or diet pills)
  • Possible self-harm, substance abuse or suicide attempts

Physical signs and symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Slow heart rate and/or irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure, which may cause dizziness or fainting
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Poor circulation, resulting in a bluish discoloration of the fingers
  • Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
  • Cessation of menstruation in females
  • Constipation
  • Abnormal levels of minerals and electrolytes in the body
  • Dry skin
  • Nails becoming more brittle
  • Growth of baby fine hair all over the body
  • Collection of fluid in ankles during the day and around eyes during the night
  • Abnormal mineral and electrolyte levels in the body
  • Dehydration, often seen in very dry, chapped lips
  • Poor immune system
  • Headaches, due to malnutrition