Contrary to the unrealistic, glamorizing versions of anorexia we tend to see in the media, anorexia is a serious mental health condition. It’s defined by a limited or restricted amount of food intake which results in lower than expected body weight and a negative body image. Without proper recognition and treatment, it can create a devastating reality, resulting in severe health consequences.

While it is a disease that mostly affects women, anorexia doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of your gender, age, race, and body type, anorexia comes with a number of emotional challenges and fears, experienced by each person differently. 

The following list includes some of the most common signs and symptoms in individuals with anorexia. 

Physical symptoms

The physical symptoms that present in cases of anorexia can also be found in other medical conditions, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from a professional. 

A few common physical symptoms can present as:

  • Abdominal pain or frequent stomach aches
  • Anemic and bruises easily.
  • Brittle nails
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Constipation
  • Dry and thinning hair
  • Extreme dehydration
  • Hair loss
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Loss of or a delayed menstrual period in females.
  • Low blood pressure and heart rate
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Pale, dry skin
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Significantly low body weight

Behavioral symptoms

These are signs that are often more easily noticed by family and friends of someone who is struggling with anorexia. They may be observed before the physical signs and can look like the following: 

  • Denial of hunger or refusal to eat 
  • Desperate to exercise even when inappropriate
  • Perfectionism
  • Fatigue, loss of energy, or feeling tired
  • Insistence on wearing layers of clothing
  • May seem obsessed with food-related topics-such as cooking or cooking shows on TV.
  • Particular eating habits-refusing to eat certain foods, extreme changes in diet
  • Strange food rituals, such as an insistence on using specific utensils
  • Weighs themselves often, fears gaining weight 
  • Withdrawal from friends and family

Emotional symptoms

Some of these symptoms might be more challenging to recognize from an outsider's perspective. Along with anxiety or depression symptoms, family members and friends may be able to identify some of the following warning signs.

  • Strong desire for approval-determines self-esteem or self-worth by appearance and weight
  • Easily irritable
  • Extremely self-critical
  • Little to no motivation to engage in hobbies or relationships

Getting help

Anorexia nervosa can cause several severe health consequences, but recovery is possible. Seeking treatment early on improves the chances of successful recovery. If any of the above sounds familiar, contact your local physical or mental health care provider for an assessment.