Anorexia Nervosa

About Anorexia Nervosa

  • Between 5-20% of individuals with anorexia nervosa will die; the probabilities of death increases within that range depending on the length of the condition (Zerbe, 1995)
  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental health condition
  • Anorexia nervosa typically appears in early to mid-adolescence

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Restriction of energy intake, resulting in significantly low body weight 
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat (despite significantly low body weight)
  • Disturbance in the experience of body weight or shape; undue influence of weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body weight

Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Weight loss (significant or sudden)
  • Preoccupation with weight, body, food, calories, fat grams, exercise and/or dieting
  • Refusal to eat certain foods or food group
  • Distorted self-image
  • Expressed anxiety about gaining weight or being "fat"
  • Denial of hunger
  • Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate)
  • Avoidance of meals or situations involving food
  • Participation in an excessive, rigid exercise regimen
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and/or activities
  • Increased irritability 
  • Limited insight into and/or denial of the abovementioned unhealthy behavioral or cognitive patterns 

Health Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Slow heart rate and low blood pressure; the risk for heart failure increases, as heart rate and blood pressure decrease
  • Reduction of bone density (dry, brittle bones); the risk for osteoporosis/osteopenia increases as bone density decreases which 
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Dehydration (which can result in kidney failure) 
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness
  • Dry hair and skin, hair loss
  • Growth of a downy layer of hair (lanugo) all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm

Description adapted from the National Eating Disorders Association and the DSM-5.



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