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You are here:DisordersAnorexiaWhat are the signs and symptoms of anorexia?

What are the signs and symptoms of anorexia?

Signs and symptoms

Some common signs and symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Weight loss or not making expected developmental weight gains
  • Distorted body image – often feeling much bigger than you are in reality
  • Fear of gaining weight and obsession with losing weight
  • Avoiding eating, making excuses or denying hunger
  • Counting calories excessively or restricting food groups
  • Making yourself sick (purging)
  • Erosion of tooth enamel from purging
  • Use of laxatives or diet pills
  • Excessive exercise
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • Preoccupation with food, calories and numbers (for example, some may enjoy cooking and baking for others, but not eating what they cook)
  • Rigid eating rituals (e.g. eating very slowly, taking a certain number of bites, always leaving something on the plate, eating only at certain times)
  • Loss of (or irregular) periods
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Low body temperature
  • Wearing lots of layers of clothing either to keep warm or to hide body shape or weight loss
  • Loss of muscle strength – walking, even standing, can take all your energy
  • Dizziness, low blood pressure and slow heart rate
  • Dehydration
  • Stomach problems, constipation and bloating
  • Thinning or falling out hair

Responsive symptoms

The below symptoms can be associated with or reactions to anorexia:

  • Suicidal thoughts – The suicide mortality rate for those struggling with anorexia is one of the highest of psychological disorders. This can increase at times throughout recovery, especially during early recovery stages, as the common guilt of increasing intake or restoring weight increases. Any thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously.
  • Co-morbid disorders – Anorexia is often accompanied by other mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or substance abuse. For many, anorexia itself can feel like an addiction, and developing compulsive behaviours or rituals around food (such as eating very slowly, cutting food into tiny pieces, or eating only with specific cutlery or at specific times) is common. Some may turn to alcohol or drugs, either to suppress appetite or to cope with the distress of anorexia.