Anorexia Symptoms

Written by Amy Pusey (last updated April 17, 2009)

We all have issues with our bodies at some point in our lives, and sometimes it is justified, but most of the time it is not. The world we live in today is increasingly image-conscious, and there are so many factors that contribute to an individual developing poor self-esteem, including size 0 designer clothes, magazines, and most importantly, personal relationships. Why is it that some individuals become so deeply affected by these influences they develop the need to hurt their bodies by not eating? But, are these the true root-causes that initiate a person's response to internal pain and conflict by spiraling into the realm of Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa, as most are know, is an eating disorder. It is derived from an individual's greatest fear, which is becoming fat; it is then perpetuated by an endless pursuit to become thin. They often cycle between restricting their diet and purging after meals. People suffering Anorexia will take great measures to maintain incredibly low body weights, even to the point of emaciation. Unfortunately, it is never enough, and they are driven to make the figures reflected on the bathroom scale to continue to drop. For them, the only critical outcome they can conceive is to be as thin as possible. While historically, Anorexia studies have concentrated on women of varying ages, they are now broadening their study base as the disorder now afflicts men and children in greater numbers.

The goal of thinness is not necessarily the cause to be thin. There are a few major reasons individuals develop Anorexia. They include:

  • Biological. A person may be pre-ordained to the disorder due to genetic make-up similar to individuals who suffer from depression, drug addiction, or alcoholism. An imbalance in their brain chemistry may trigger the disorder when it succumbs to a trauma or stress.
  • Relationship Pressures. Dysfunction in family relationships can set off the disorder, specifically if there is constant tension amidst family members, parents are controlling or domineering, a relative or close peer has struggled (or continues to struggle) with a negative body image, or there is a history of sexual abuse.
  • Psychological. The overachieving and perfectionist mentalities can place an individual at risk because their efforts focus on helping and pleasing others, while inside it is a sensation of chaos because they do not feel in control of themselves or their surroundings, are helpless, or unhappy and focus that negative energy on their bodies.
  • Culture. Waif-like models on runways and in popular fashion magazines are placed on a pedestal to perfection by many global cultures, and present an unrealistic ideal that impressionable young people believe they should aim to attain.

In the early stages of Anorexia, it may be difficult for a loved one to notice the disorder because Anorexia sufferers will go to great lengths to conceal it. And, if they are caught or questioned about some of their unique habits, they become very adept at giving excuses and involved explanations so as to deter anyone from focusing on their harmful routine. When a person is suffering from Anorexia, the symptoms can become numerous and will pertain to three areas related to the daily routine: food behavior, changes in body appearance, and frequent vomiting. Specifically, here are examples of symptoms to look out for in the event you suspect someone to be suffering from Anorexia:

Altered Body Image or Appearance

  • Fixated on body: They repeatedly complain how their clothes fit, you see them obsessing in front of the mirror, or they become overly upset with minimal changes in their weight.
  • Feel fat: They constantly stress they are too fat because and may hate specific parts of their body, such as the stomach, thighs, or upper arms.
  • Dramatic weight loss: A sudden drop in weight, not associated with a recent illness, and cannot be explained by the anorexic.

Eating Behaviors

  • Preoccupied with food: They do not eat very much at any meal, or is suddenly concerned with how food is cooked, how much fat content it contains, or if cooking oils are used.
  • Diets: Feels the need to be on a diet to lose weight, even if they are already thin or underweight.
  • Lies or Pretends: Indicates they cannot eat meals due to larger meals supposedly consumed at different mealtimes during the day, plays with the food to make it appear more has been eaten, or hides it in napkins or throws it away in trash bins.

Purging Signs

  • Vomiting: If they excuse themselves during meals or immediately vanish to the toilet after a meal, most likely they are making themselves throw up to void their body of the food they've consumed.
  • Use of Medicines: They may use water pills, laxatives, appetite suppressants, or ipecac syrup (medicinally used to induce vomiting), so an increase in discarded boxes and wrappers would be evident in the trash bins.
  • Exercise: They begin to follow very strict regimens in order to burn-off as many calories as possible in the course of a day, and will work through injuries and illness with no concern of the consequences.

The key for any parent, family member, or friend is to pay attention to the eating habits, changes in body appearance, and suspicions of purging, and attempt to address the problems with the person with whom you are concerned and help them seek professional help. If left unchecked, anorexia will contribute to the deterioration of an individual's total well-being. Prolonged exposure to anorexia may eventually result in health problems, including stunted growth, osteoporosis, infertility, and kidney damage, and eventually death.

People who suffer from anorexia generally are unable to help themselves, and often do not realize the need for medical assistance. It may be up to you to recognize the symptoms and get them the help they will desperately require.

Author Bio

Amy Pusey

With over 18 years experience in operations and human-resource management, Amy Pusey uses her skills in her consulting and freelance writing activities. She is a freelance writer for, as well as a resume writer for ...


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