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Anorexia Nervosa - Symptoms

Feelings and actions

Common feelings and actions that are linked to anorexia nervosa include:1

  • Having an intense fear of gaining weight.
  • Restricting food or types of food, such as food that contains any kind of fat or sugar.
  • Weighing less than 85% of your expected body weight. (In a child or teen, losing or not gaining weight during a growth spurt is a concern.)
  • Seeing your body as overweight, in spite of being underweight. This is called having a distorted body image.
  • Exercising too much.
  • Being secretive around food and not recognizing or wanting to talk about having a problem with eating or weight loss.

Some people who have anorexia also make themselves vomit or use laxatives or diuretics to lose weight (bulimia). Breakdown of the enamel on the teeth is a common symptom of long-term vomiting.

Physical signs

Common physical signs of malnutrition from anorexia include:2

  • A low body weight.
  • Constipation and slow emptying of the stomach.
  • Thinning hair, dry skin, and brittle nails.
  • Shrunken breasts.
  • Stopping or never getting a monthly menstrual period.
  • Feeling cold, with a lower-than-normal body temperature.
  • Low blood pressure.

Food rituals

People who have anorexia often form rituals associated with eating. These may include:

  • Having special ways to eat food, hoarding food, collecting recipes, and preparing elaborate meals for other people but not eating the meals themselves.
  • Spending a lot of time cutting and rearranging food on their plates to make it look as though they have eaten. They may also hide food or secretly get rid of it during meals.

Suicidal feelings

In some cases, people who have eating disorders can feel suicidal.

If someone you know shows warning signs of suicide, make sure that the person is not left alone. Seek help from a mental health professional immediately.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, talk to someone about it. Call a local suicide hotline, your local health department, or the national suicide hotline (1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255), or seek help at a local hospital emergency room.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 25, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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