General Facts About Anorexia

General Facts About Anorexia

In the United States, mental health professionals often use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM 5) as the standard when diagnosing mental disorders in their patients. The DSM 5 dictates that the following criteria has to be met in order for an individual to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, a serious type of eating disorder:

  • The person possesses an intense fear of weight gain, even if they are underweight
  • The person restricts their intake of food such that they have a significantly low body weight for their physical health, age, sex, and/or developmental trajectory
  • The individual has a distorted way in which their weight or shape is experienced, deny how low their body weight is, or their weight or shape has an undue influence on their sense of self worth

However, someone does not have to meet the DSM 5’s requirements in order to be experiencing a severe eating disorder. In general, people suffering from anorexia nervosa will restrict what kinds of food they eat and how many calories they consume; they could also work out compulsively, binge eat, or purge by induced vomiting or used laxatives and diuretics.


Emotional Signs and Behavioral Patterns in Anorexia

There are many different emotional signs and behaviors that could suggest someone is suffering from anorexia nervosa. These may include:

  • Making excuses to avoid meals or situations that involve food
  • Denial of feeling hungry
  • Food rituals, such as excessively chewing or eating food in a certain order
  • Expressing the need to “burn off” any calories consumed
  • Having a rigid exercise regiment that takes precedence over fatigue, illness, injury, etc
  • Has a preoccupation with dieting, food, weight, calories
  • Refusing to eat certain foods, that may progress into restricting against entire categories
  • Frequently commenting about feeling “fat” despite having lost weight
  • Overly restrained emotional expression and initiative
  • Wearing layers to stay warm or hide weight loss
  • Worried about eating in public
  • Low spontaneity
  • Has a major fear of gaining weight
  • Has inflexible thinking
  • Has a distorted view of their body shape or weight
  • Cooking meals for others that they don’t eat themself
  • Complaining about gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Has a strong need to be in control
  • Feeling ineffective
  • Withdrawal from friends and usual activities
  • Denying the seriousness of having a low body weight
  • Having an undue influence of their weight or shape on their sense of self worth


Physical Signs of Anorexia

There are also many physical signs that a person suffering from anorexia nervosa may present with. These could include: 

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor wound healing
  • Impaired immune system functioning
  • Abnormal bloodwork results such as low counts or anemia
  • Abnormal laboratory findings such as low hormone levels, slow heart rate, low potassium
  • Yellow skin from eating lots of carrots
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Cold, mottled hands and feet
  • Swollen feet
  • Thinning hair on one’s head
  • Lanugo, or fine hair on the body
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nonspecific gastrointestinal symptoms such as acid reflux or constipation
  • Dental issues such as cavities, sensitivity, enamel erosion, tooth discoloration
  • Cuts and calluses on one’s finger joints, perhaps from induced vomiting
  • Swelling around the salivary glands
  • Dizziness
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Sleep issues
  • Fainting
  • Dry skin
  • dry/brittle nails


Getting Help

While the side effects of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders can be severe, it is important to always remember that they are, thankfully, treatable. One such way to do so is by calling an eating disorder hotline. You may also contact us at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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