Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that manifests itself as loss of body weight, fear of gaining weight and a distorted view of weight in general. People who are affected by this condition place a lot of attention on losing weight that they do all means possible, even if it means harming themselves. They will try to lose weight excessively by restricting the amount of food that they will eat. They may even vomit their food and use enemas, laxatives and diuretics.

There are two general types of anorexia:

Restricting type. This type of anorexia is when the person places excessive restrictions on the amount and type of foods that he or she eats.

Binge eating. This is also known as the purging type. In this type, the person also places restrictions on the food that they eat.


Anorexia nervosa may have the following symptoms:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Thin appearance
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Bluish discoloration of the fingers
  • Thinning or falling hair
  • Soft, downy hair covering the body
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Constipation and abdominal pain
  • Dry or yellowish skin
  • Intolerance of cold
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Swelling of arms or legs
  • Eroded teeth and calluses on the knuckles from induced vomiting
  • Severely restricting food intake through dieting or fasting
  • Exercising excessively
  • Bingeing and self-induced vomiting
  • Frequently skipping meals or refusing to eat
  • Denial of hunger or making excuses for not eating
  • Eating only a few certain “safe” foods, usually those low in fat and calories
  • Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as spitting food out after chewing
  • Not wanting to eat in public
  • Lying about how much food has been eaten
  • Fear of gaining weight that may include repeated weighing or measuring the body
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Complaining about being fat or having parts of the body that are fat
  • Covering up in layers of clothing
  • Flat mood
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced interest in sex


The doctor may do a medical and physical examination on the patient. If he or she strongly suspects anorexia nervosa, tests that may be requested may include the following:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Electrolytes
  • Protein
  • Liver, kidney and thyroid function tests
  • Urinalysis
  • Psychological evaluation
  • X-rays  for bone density, stress fractures or broken bones, or check for pneumonia or heart problems
  • Electrocardiogram



Treatment for anorexia nervosa can be given by a team of health care professionals such as doctors, mental health professionals and dieticians. The patient may undergo hospitalization. Diet therapy may be done as well as psychotherapy.

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