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What Is Anorexia Nervosa? What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Updated on October 14, 2019
Gabriel Wilson profile image

With the darkest of my thoughts transferred to written words at times I can see the light.

To Eat is Torture: Food is The Enemy

Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder: affecting all ages; nationalities; sexes; cultures and backgrounds. However young women are more susceptible. Is there one single common commodity between sufferers? Yes! for whatever reason all sufferers have a distorted image of their body; they think they are fat when in fact they are thin. This disorder kills more people than any other psychiatric disorder. Third world countries battle against starvation every minute of every day. Yet, in our affluent world people lose their most basic instinct of survival: the instinct to eat. To comprehend such an action is very difficult. You must appreciate anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric disorder. People that suffer with this terrible disease are completely consumed by it. They are powered by the disease.

Beautiful bodies are thrust in our faces every day. Magazines, newspapers, TV, movies, adverts; everywhere we look. Being thin portrays an image of success, happiness, having it all. Thin celebrities are perceived as having the perfect body image. While some of us will aspire to being healthy and slim; follow a good diet; get plenty of exercise and enjoy our treats. Others will go to the next level; others will lose control and succumb to an eating disorder. Anorexia will embrace you like no other disease: offer you a place to hide; isolate you from all that's normal and discard you when it's feasted; leaving you ravaged and distroyed.

Noticing Oddities: The Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

People whom suffer with anorexia nervosa have a fear of weight gain. Food becomes the enemy and all measures are made to avoid eating. Sufferers will often see themselves as fatter than they actually are. Of course we mainly associate sufferers with being painfully thin. We first suspect the disease when we notice rapid and drastic weight loss. However, there are a number of different signs. Other noticeable oddities may include...

The Signs:

  • An obsession with calories, fat and portion control.
  • Odd habits with their food (having their own plate).
  • Strict controlled rituals with how and when the eat.
  • Sufferers will survive on very little calories: lying about what they have eaten; hiding food; skipping family meal times; pretending to be ill (sore throat, stomach upset) to escape eating.
  • Developing a dislike for numerous foods: giving up meat for example or claiming an intolerance to dairy or wheat.
  • Wanting to cook their own food and eating at different times to the family.
  • Cooking elaborate meals and making an excuse not to eat it themselves.
  • Overreact to fattening foods, ie a big slice of chocolate cake, or a swirl of cream in their soup.
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide a slimmer frame.
  • Constantly weighing themselves.
  • Always looking in the mirror.
  • Being very secretive.
  • Spending a lot of time on their own and wanting to be alone.
  • Health books and calorie counting magazines may be hidden among other reading materials.
  • Fitness DVDs among their movie collection.
  • Taking laxatives, slimming pills and/or water pills.
  • Extreme exercising.
  • Seeming confused.
  • Consistently irritable.
  • Short tempered.
  • Sad and/or upset.
  • Depressed.

Consequences of Starvation: The Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

People develop anorexia nervosa for different reasons. They may have been teased about their weight, and decided to diet. Perhaps aspire to be like their favorite skinny celebrity. Young girls may struggle with the changes in their bodies as they go through puberty; not wanting to be a woman. Anorexia nervosa is about control; excessive control.

Whatever the reason and there's no one common reason the outcome is the same. Anorexia nervosa is a griping disease that seeps into the brain. Nothing is more important than controlling every aspect of food in their lives. Their whole world is an ugly fight with their biggest enemy; food.

The body suffers drastically when starved of food. After all the body absorbs the necessary nutrients and minerals from food consumed to function. Malnutrition has devastating consequences.

A sufferer will experience horrendous problems with their body. Among those problems they may experience...

The Symptoms:

  • Skin problems: xerosis and acne to name but two.
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea.
  • Tooth loss.
  • Hair loss.
  • Fine soft hair growth, on the body and face.
  • Chilblains on the hands and feet.
  • Large purple veins on the hands and feet.
  • A decrease in white blood cells, leaving the body open to infection, hence increased illnesses.
  • In females, loss of periods.
  • Sleeping problems.
  • Stomach problems.
  • Epileptic fits.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Organ damage.
  • Anaemia, loss of red blood cells, resulting in weakness and fatigue as the blood struggles to carry oxygen around the body.
  • Cardiac arrest.


Knowing that anorexia is a mental disorder governed by an unhealthy relationship with food and a fear of weight gain perhaps we can try to understand it. Perhaps more importantly to recognize it and hopefully stop it: better still diagnose it early and cure it. Sufferers can survive and conquer their disorder, but the longer the disease goes undetected the more difficult it is to return to a normal life with food.

Anorexia nervosa is a condition that must be diagnosed by a medical professional. However, sometimes we all need to be a little more aware of what happens in our lives and our loved ones lives. It's important to notice all oddities and changes with our loved ones. Our lives are so busy these days, it's difficult to notice every little thing. Let me tell you something: when you notice one thing you'll see all the other little things. The alarm bells will ring louder than anything you've ever heard in your life. And you'll pray to your God, that what you're seeing, is not the diseased clutches of anorexia nervosa embracing the body of the person you love.

Would You be Able to Identify a Sufferer?

Would you recognise the signs and symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa?

See results

© 2011 Gabriel Wilson


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    • Gabriel Wilson profile imageAUTHOR

      Gabriel Wilson 

      5 weeks ago from Madeira, Portugal

      Hi Jim. I'm so glad your Mum was able to improve her situation. She must be a tough cookie. Anorexia is very much about control and breaking that control is very difficult. Look after yourself :)

    • jimagain profile image

      Jim Henderson 

      5 weeks ago from Hattiesburg, Mississippi

      My mother suffered from Nervosa Anorexia for many years, I remember she had to be coaxed to eat and was often underweight, Later in life she became able to eat a healthy meal without any external effort. Her disorder stemmed from a trauma shortly after she was married and not so much from obsession over weight. I can certainly sympathize with anyone who has suffered the same, for whatever reason.

    • Gabriel Wilson profile imageAUTHOR

      Gabriel Wilson 

      8 years ago from Madeira, Portugal

      Nice to meet you Danielle. Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it.

      Well done to you and I wish you all the strength you need to continue your recovery. You must be a very driven person and I am sure you have a great future ahead of you :)

    • Danielle Hudes profile image

      Danielle Hudes 

      8 years ago from New Jersey

      This is absolutely fantastic. I am very far in my recovery from this awful, terrible disorder and I could not have written such an incredible piece on it. This is just very nicely put together. I appreciate the extensive research that must have been needed to be done in order to put this together. Anorexia as well as other eating disorders are becoming far too prevalent and I believe it's important to recognize the signs and to catch this progressive disorder quickly.

    • Becky Puetz profile image

      9 years ago from Oklahoma

      I'm grateful to learn more about anorexia as I'm not that familiar with the symptoms and signs displayed by persons suffering from this terrible disease. Your hub is packed with facts that many people will benefit from. Just being made aware of some of the tell-tell signs is helpful, especially for parents with young teens. Thanks for an awesome hub!

    • Karen Wodke profile image

      Karen Wodke 

      9 years ago from Midwest

      Very informative. It sounds like an awful way to live.


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