Physical Symptoms of Anorexia

Physical Symptoms of Anorexia

Anorexia Nervosa is one of the eating disorders that tens of millions of Americans will suffer from at some point during their lives, according to estimates made by The National Eating Disorders Association. Eating disorders are severe, and can affect people physically as well as mentally; they can sometimes even prove to be fatal. They are likely caused by a combination of biological, sociocultural, and genetic factors, and can strike any individual regardless of their age, gender, or background. Today, we are going to look at the physical symptoms of anorexia. 

Anorexia Nervosa – Background

Psychologists and historians have found evidence that individuals have been showing signs of anorexia nervosa for hundreds–or even thousands–of years. While it tends to develop during a person’s adolescence, more and more older adults and children are being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Some of the disease’s hallmarks include:

  • Weight loss
  • A distorted body image 
  • Having a hard time maintaining an appropriate weight for one’s stature

Individuals suffering from anorexia also tend to restrict the types of food they eat and how many calories they consume; they could also compulsively work out, binge eat, and purge via laxative use or induced vomiting. 

Physical Symptoms of Anorexia 

 Anorexia nervosa may come with a host of physical symptoms, such as:

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

Other Health Risks of Anorexia Nervosa

Other serious health risks may come as the body slows down its processes in an effort to conserve energy as a result of a dangerous self-starvation cycle; such cycles deny the body of the nutrients it needs to function properly. In serious cases, people suffering from anorexia nervosa might pass away suddenly due to electrolyte imbalances or cardiac arrest. This highlights the importance of early intervention.

Emotional and Behavior Signs Associated with Anorexia

There are also various emotional signs and behaviors that could suggest someone is battling anorexia. These may include:

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

How to Get Help

While anorexia can be a severe–or potentially fatal–illness, it is treatable. One can find a treatment facility, or reach out to a hotline; we are also here to help at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. We may be contacted via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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