Anorexia Nervosa

by Naiya Washington

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder in which people have an intense fear of gaining weight and can become dangerously thin. Signs of anorexia include less than normal weight, negative body image, and obsession with food.


  • Significant weight loss as a result of restricting food intake
  • Fear of becoming fat, even when obviously too thin
  • Distorted body image
  • Excessive dieting and exercising
  • Abnormal food preoccupations, such as counting all calories or obsessively studying cookbooks
  • Constipation
  • Dry, yellowish skin
  • Dental decay
  • Fine, downy hair growing on the face and arms
  • Menstrual periods that become irregular or stop completely
  • Mood swings and anxiety
  • Suppression of sexual desire
  • Cold hands and feet at normal room temperature
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Hyperactivity
  • Frequent digestive problems, infections, or other illnesses.
  • Physical problems that include anemia, heart palpitations, bone loss, and tooth decay.

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Treatment for anorexia must address both psychological and physical problems. The treatment team should include a mental health professional and a primary care doctor. Successful treatment usually includes continuous medical care, regular therapy, nutritional counseling, and sometimes medication. Although certain antideprssants are sometimes used to treat anorexia, they are not always effective, and no medication is FDA approved to treat it.


As malnutrition sets in, the brain and metabolism change. This limits the appetite, how your body uses food, and your ability to think clearly and make good decisions. As the illness gets worse, irrational behaviors begin, such as making rules about food or making yourself vomit out of fear of gaining weight. Starvation and malnourishment from anorexia can cause complications, such as osteoporosis or an irrational heartbeat. Often other mental health conditions occur along with anorexia, such as depression.
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