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Understanding Anorexia: How to Spot the Signs of Anorexia, How to Prevent it & How to Overcome the Illness

Updated on July 22, 2013

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that causes its sufferers to have a psychological fear of gaining weight.

A person who deals with anorexia will have an obsession with counting calories, exercising and constantly weighing themselves, because of the preoccupation with their size.

A serious case of anorexia nervosa will leave the person with a formidable sense of body disorientation, seeing their reflection only as overweight, even if they are frighteningly underweight.

The unwillingness to eat foods and maintain a healthy and stable body weight can lead to health and often, fertility complications for women.

Other side effects of anorexia include:

  • Brittle bones
  • Iron deficiency
  • Depression
  • Low heart rate
  • Hair thinning / Hair loss
  • Dehydration
  • Anemia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tiredness
  • Senstivity to cold conditions
  • Inability to socialise
  • Periods may stop
  • Delayed puberty
  • Infertility
  • Constipation
  • Additional disorders such as bulimia

These are just some effects of this fatal disease. If anorexia nervosa is not noticed and treated the symptoms can get increasingly worse and can be difficult to reverse. When spotted early on, it is much easier to overcome the illness; but not without the right support.

Anorexia nervosa affects both men and women of all ages. Usually starting in the teenage years, some people may struggle with the illness for the entire length of their lives. There are many things that can act as a trigger to anorexia nervosa materialising in a person's life. Be sure to focus on the signs and symptoms, so that the disease can be spotted and fought.

Statistics of Anorexia

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders Inc. these are the following statistics for this eating disorder in 2011.

General Statistics:

  • Depression will affect 50% of eating disorder patients
  • 1 in 10 men and women will receive treatment for their eating disorder.
  • 35% of eating disorder patients will be treated at a specialised facility
  • Out of any mental illness, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate
  • Over 20 million people of mixed ages, genders and ethnicities will struggle wth an eating disorder in the U.S.

Student statistics:

  • A college campus survey showed that over 90% of women tried diets to control weight with 22% constantly dieting.
  • By the age of 20, at least 86% contract an eating disorder
  • Between the ages of 16 and 20, at least 43% contract an eating disorder.
  • Amidst the adolescent age, anorexia is the third most persistent chronic illness
  • 95% of people suffering from eating disorders will be between the age of 12 and 25
  • Bingeing and purgeing is a common technique to control weight, with 25% of college women trying this
  • A large portion of young men and women try to lose weight by skipping meals, fasting, smoking, vomiting and taxing a form of laxatives.

How to Recognise the Signs of Anorexia

In order to effectively battle this disease, you should learn to know the signs and symptoms. If you notice your close friend, family member or someone you know has most or all of the following symptoms, you may want to take the next step and assist in getting them professional help.

Signs to look out for:

  • Hiding food
  • Purging and bringing up food in the bathroom
  • Isolation
  • Wearing baggy clothing
  • Not eating food with other people
  • Constant exercising
  • Images of the 'ideal' weight pinned on walls and in bedrooms
  • Changes in behaviour and mood
  • Lack of periods
  • Dull coloured skin
  • Fatigue
  • Distorted body image
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Always feeling cold
  • Emotional issues

If you do feel that these signs of spotting anorexia are familiar to you and you know someone that needs help, then you should try to speak with that person on a one-to-one basis. Do not alarm them and be sure that they can trust and confide in you.

Many organizations help people deal with eating disorders on a regular basis and have managed to turn lots of people's lives around. As a result, those who once suffered with severe anorexia are healthy once again.

Places to go for help with anorexia nervosa:

Prevention of Anorexia

There is no sure fire way to prevent a person from contracting anorexia, due to it being a mental illness that affects the entire body. However, there are certain factors that can be blamed in such a way for portraying the thin image to young men and women across the globe.

This along with other factors can trigger an anorexia problem or eating disorder which can lead to health problems or even death. Being aware of certain issues that may be remotely related to anorexia can help you to shield these influences from turning a life upside down.

The Media

The media is a big problem in today's society and is often associated with eating disorders. Due to most models being extremely thin, bony, fragile and often a size 0, this affects the young and older minds that strive to be the size they are. The lack of plus size models depicts the fact that a slimmer image is the only acceptable one, which is of course not true.

Every person is different and the media is slowly infecting the minds of today's youth, along with airbrushing. Images are regularly airbrushed to portray a perfect and flawless model. Many young men and women will end up with an eating disorder after desperately trying to look like these false and edited images that are strewn across every magazine, TV commercial and music video today.

Family issues

Many family issues such as arguments or deaths can often trigger eating disorders. This is not to say that every individual who deals with a bad experience in their life will result in battling an eating disorder. However, the stress and strain of an uncontrolled situation can sometimes lead a person to try to regain control with their eating habits.


Bullies in schools can pass on extreme negative effects that can corrupt a person's body image and allow them to feel inadequate. This can spiral out of control and strike up an eating disorder. Be aware of your children and how they are getting on in their school environment and remind them that everyone is perfect in their own way.

Ways to Overcome Anorexia

Despite this being one of the most controlling and burdensome diseases to conquer, there are options for those who suffer from anorexia. It is possible to start a new life and get back on track with healthy eating plans and a clear mind. The following tips provide anorexia nervosa sufferers with an opportunity to banish the disease for good.

Help with eating

This sort of treatment will help a person eat regular meals and regain a consistent and healthy diet with a balanced amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. The amount of times a patient weighs themselves will be reduced, so that the appropriate weight gain can be accomplished and a healthy BMI is achieved.

Psychological treatments

Psychological treatments will consist of a person meeting with a professional in the industry to answer questions, deal with behaviour, control the mind and banish negative thoughts.The emotional issues linked with anorexia can be beaten and this sort of treatment will usually last several months, or as long as the patient requires it.


Medication is usually involved in the treatment of anorexia, if a person has developed depression as a result. Depression can make the whole situation ten times worse, so it is important to address the issue.

Other forms of medication

Depending on the seriousness and extent of the disease, some patients may require teeth treatment or vitamins to strengthen their bones, skin, hair and nails. Potassium supplements will be used for this, along with dental care.

It is possible to beat anorexia for good, but it is not possible without a good support system and the motivation to get better. If you know someone dealing with anorexia, you can take on the important role of guiding them to being healthy and glowing.


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    • profile image 

      5 years ago

      I just watched Andy Cohen on Bravo this evening with Kelly Ripa and Jaclyn LaRita on as the guests. I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED Kelly Ripa. The problem is her untreated anorexia. PLEASE KELLY GET HELP BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE! She looks like a skeleton! I saw her about 10 months ago and she now looks 25 pounds thinner. She has so much talent; but I can see her eating disorder. Overachiever; perfectionist;and insecure. I TRULY hope she gets the help she needs before she starves herself to death!

    • profile image

      Emily Brown 

      5 years ago

      you can check this link ; this might help

    • wrenfrost56 profile image


      5 years ago from U.K.

      Really great hub, full of interesting facts and useful information. It's a shocking illness but one that I think is important to cover. Thank-you for dealing with it with sensitivity. :)

    • Jennifer Bart profile image

      Jennifer Bart 

      5 years ago from Texas

      As someone who has struggled with this I appreciate this article. Thank you for raising awareness on this issue as so many of us struggle with it. This was a very educational and eye opening article.

    • raedog68 profile image


      7 years ago

      R.I.P Isabelle Carro :-(. Thank you for this read...breaks my heart!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      7 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Bethan . . .Amazing read. Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting. Not anything funny or beautiful about this deadly disease. I happen to know some girls that are on the border-line with this problem. Thank YOU for presenting this topic so professionally. The artwork/graphics did the job in getting my attention. I am a fan and follower. Sincerely, Kenneth Avery, from a rural town, Hamilton, in northwest Alabama that looks much like that town, Mayberry, on the Andy Griffith Show. Keep up the great work. (((kenneth)))

    • qlcoach profile image

      Gary Eby 

      7 years ago from Cave Junction, Oregon

      Yes to increasing our understanding of the painful signs and symptoms of eating disorders. People who suffer from any form of mental illness or addiction can learn new coping skills that will improve the quality of one's life. Peace and Light...Gary.

    • qlcoach profile image

      Gary Eby 

      7 years ago from Cave Junction, Oregon

      Excellent presentation of the signs and symptoms of Anorexia. Nicely written and organized. I do believe that eating disorders are based on unresolved emotional issues. I have found that attending 12 Step support groups, and learning how to vent, release, and replace painful issues with the positive can help. That is why I write about emotional recovery and miracles. Peace and Light...Gary.

    • ubanichijioke profile image

      Alexander Thandi Ubani 

      7 years ago from Lagos

      OMG, this is a very interesting piece. I think this eating disorder must be given a very high consideration by suffers. The pictures look pathetic. A great piece

    • BethanRose profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from South Wales

      Thankyou very much for your kind comments. I agree this is a subject that should be spoken about more, because the problem is always there. It's great that Dove are promoting this because women, old and young, are subjected to a high amount of pressure in today's society. Spread the word everyone!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      An absolutely awesome hub on a very seious problem. Your hub is fact-filled and extremely helpful. Parents need to be very aware of this huge problem andshould be very careful about what they say to their daughters regarding weight. Thanks for addressing this topic in such a high quality hub. Voted up and useful.

    • cooldad profile image


      7 years ago from Florida

      I feel sorry for girls and women today. You turn on the television and you see women like Guilian and Kelly Ripa, who in my opinion are disgustingly too skinny and women want to look like them. I just don't get it.

      It makes me kind of sad that women feel that type of pressure.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub.

      Being skinny does not mean being healthy or beautiful.

      Beauty comes in all sizes and shapes.

      One advertiser that is promoting this is Dove.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub brimming with facts and figures. It is must read for the young girls who try to become skinny seeing all those models on the ramp.


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