What Are the Symptoms of Anorexia?

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on September 07, 2022
2 min read

If you think you may have anorexia, it’s a good idea to reach out for help. Anorexia is an eating disorder that affects many people.

One of the main signs of anorexia is not eating enough food. You might not eat because you think you’ll look perfect if you lose a lot of weight. But starving yourself can make you very sick, or even lead to death, so you need to get help.

Starvation isn’t the only sign of anorexia. Call a doctor right away if you have some of the symptoms listed below. They can help you get back on track with a plan to live a better life.

  • You don’t eat enough, so you’re underweight
  • Your self-esteem is based on the way your body looks
  • You are obsessed with and terrified of gaining weight
  • It’s hard for you to sleep through the night
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Your hair is falling out
  • You no longer get your period
  • Constipation
  • You feel like your heart is beating in a strange way
  • Dehydration
  • Swollen arms or legs­­

Even before you develop symptoms of anorexia, you may start to notice certain warning signs that you’re headed that way, including:

  • Constant worry about dieting, food, calories, and weight
  • You complain a lot about being “fat”
  • You refuse to eat whole groups of food, like carbohydrates
  • You pretend you’re not hungry when really you are
  • You stick to a difficult exercise schedule
  • You avoid friends and have no interest in your usual activities
  • You lie about how much food you’ve eaten
  • You check yourself in the mirror a lot
  • Not wanting to eat in public
  • You wear layers of clothes so people can’t see how much you weigh

You may feel like a failure and think that asking for medical help will create a burden for the doctor. This isn’t true. Your doctor wants to help you.

When you don’t eat enough, you starve your body of the nutrients it needs. This can lead to problems like fainting, tiredness, weak muscles, slow heart rate, low blood pressure, and more. It can even put your life at risk. You need to get medical help before it gets to that point.

If you’re having any thoughts about ending your life, call your doctor or 911 immediately. People care about you and they want to help. You can also call one of the free suicide prevention helplines, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. And you don’t need to give your name.

Facing anorexia can make you feel angry or sad. Don’t forget that doctors treat lots of people for anorexia and they’ve gotten better. When you spot symptoms and ask for help, you put yourself on the road to recovery.