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About Anorexia

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Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by self-starvation to achieve and maintain abnormally low body weight. This is often accompanied by an intense fear of weight gain and a distorted body image.

Physical symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Significant weight loss over weeks or months
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping problems (such as insomnia)
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Slowed or irregular heartbeat
  • Chills
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair or hair loss
  • Growth of soft, fine hair on the body
  • Dry skin
  • Bluish or purple discoloration of hands and feet
  • Low blood pressure
  • Swelling of arms and legs (edema)
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration

In addition to the physical symptoms, anorexia can lead to behavioral and emotional symptoms largely centered around weight loss and eating habits. These may manifest as excessive exercise, skipping meals, social isolation, and more.

Anorexia is thought to be primarily caused by emotional, biological, and cognitive factors that distort a person’s sense of self-worth. The disease is not as much about being “healthy” or “fit” as it is about dealing with stressors and low self-esteem. There is also some evidence to suggest that anorexia can be inherited through genetics. Those who have a first-degree relative who has had anorexia have a high risk of dealing with the disease themselves.

Anorexia can be a life-threatening condition if left untreated. If you or someone you know is dealing with sudden weight loss, distorted thinking about food and eating, or other symptoms of anorexia, talk to a health care provider right away.

Looking for help? Use the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders’ helpline to talk to a qualified professional right away. The helpline can be reached at 888-375-7767.

Treatment Options

There are a number of effective treatment options for anorexia, but the first step in treating anorexia is getting help. Below are common treatment plans for anorexia. Talk to a health care provider about a plan that is right for you or the person needing treatment.