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Recognize the Signs of Anorexia Nervosa


It is estimated that about 20 percent of people who suffer from anorexia will die prematurely due to complications from the disease, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (ANAD). For this reason alone, it is important to recognize the signs of anorexia nervosa so that treatment is provided to those in need.

Anorexia Defined

The hallmark sign of anorexia is when a sufferer believes that she is overweight, when in fact, she is extremely underweight. Technically, anorexia is defined as the “inability of a person to maintain body weight within 15 percent of the Ideal Body Weight (IBW).”

Signs of Anorexia

Some common signs that someone is suffering from anorexia include:

  • Emaciated or extremely skinny
  • Continued pursuit of becoming thinner
  • Unwillingness to maintain a normal, healthy weight
  • Fear of gaining weight that consumes one's life
  • Restricted eating patterns or extreme dieting
  • Binge eating, followed by purging or exercise to get rid of the excess calories
  • Misuse of laxatives, enemas or diuretic mediations to lose weight

Complications of Anorexia

Besides the increased risk of death, other symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Brittle nails and hair
  • Dry skin with a yellowish color
  • Feeling cold all the time due to drop in body temperature
  • Heart or brain damage that can lead to failure of multiple organs
  • Infertility due to lack of menstruation
  • Lethargic or tired all the time
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Osteoporosis, or thinning bones
  • Source: National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (ANAD)and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)