A serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
About Anorexia Nervosa
- 90-95% are girls and women 0.5–1% of American women suffer from anorexia nervosa.
- One of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in young women.
- 5-20% of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa will die.
- Has one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition.
- Typically appears in early to mid-adolescence.
- Dramatic weight loss.
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting.
- Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc.).
- Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss and 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).
- Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food.
- Excessive, rigid exercise regimen–despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the need to “burn off” calories.
- Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
- In general, behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns.
Health Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa
Due to self-starvation, the body is denied of the essential nutrients it needs to function and is forced to slow down processes to save energy. This “slowing down” can have serious medical consequences like:
- Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which increases risk for heart failure as heart rate and blood pressure sink lower and lower.
- Reduction of bone density, which results in dry, brittle bones and ultimately osteoporosis.
- Muscle loss and weakness.
- Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
- Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
- Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.
- Growth of a layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.
How Friends and Family Can Help
- Set aside a time for a private meeting with your friend to discuss your concerns openly and honestly in a caring, supportive way.
- Ask your friend to explore these concerns with a counselor, doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional.
- Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt on your friend regarding their actions or attitudes and avoid giving simple solutions.
- Remind your friend that you care and want your friend to be healthy and happy and express your continued support.
Information provided by the National Eating Disorder Association
Adrien Paczosa is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian practicing in Austin, Texas and the surrounding counties.
She is the owner and founder of I Live Well Nutrition her Dietitian practice which started in 2007 and serves clients in the Austin, Texas area in two locations. Fearless Practitioners, the division of her business that offers training to dietitians and wellness professionals.