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Anorexia Symptoms

Anorexia Symptoms
Anorexia nervosa
Causes and Risk Factors

Anorexia can manifest as a short-term or a chronic problem, perhaps lasting years.  Symptoms of anorexia are various, and serious. Anorexic symptoms may, or may not, appear after stressors such as changing schools, the divorce of parents, or even after joining a sports team.  

Behavioral symptoms of anorexia
Behavioral symptoms accompany the physical symptoms of anorexia.  At first, a person exhibit mild ways of controlling food intake, perhaps eating smaller portions of food.  This may be a reaction to stress.  However, as time goes by, the attempts to control food intake become more severe and extreme.  Drugs may be taken to reduce appetite, induce bowel movements, vomiting, or urination . . . all to reduce weight.  Behavioral symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

  • avoiding food
  • counting calories of all food
  • eating food in small amounts
  • eating only food that is 'low-fat' or 'low-calorie'
  • exercising frequently, and to the point of exhaustion, even when sick
  • frequently looking in the mirror
  • provoking vomiting after eating (bulimia)
  • spitting out food after eating
  • wearing clothing that is too large, or baggy
  • weighing food
  • weighing body weight frequently (at least daily)

Physical symptoms of anorexia
Anorexia affects the whole body.  Because the body is being starved, all body processes involving metabolism are affected.  This includes the neurological system, the cardiovascular system, the digestive system, body appearance (hair and skin) and the structure of the body (muscles and bone strength).  Physical symptoms of anorexia include:

  • anemia
  • brittle and weak bones that break easily
  • brittle hair and finger/toe nails
  • fatigue
  • feeling cold most of the time
  • irregular bowel movements or constipation
  • lanugo, or the growth of fine short white hair all over the body
  • lightheadedness
  • loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • low blood pressure, possibly resulting in fainting or dizziness
  • muscle loss, resulting in muscle weakness  
  • skin that is dry or yellow 
  • thin appearance

Over time, undernourishment can occur as a result of anorexia, manifesting as:

  • dangerously low level of electrolytes (minerals)
  • death
  • delayed or stunted physical development
  • lowered blood pressure
  • missed menstruation cycles
  • reduced muscle mass
  • slower heart rate
  • thin bones that break easily

Other symptoms
In addition to symptoms of anorexia, people may also experience symptoms of other disorders, such as depression.  Besides physical and behavioural symptoms, emotional and cognitive symptoms may accompany anorexia, such as

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering and learning
  • excessive attention spent on food
  • irritability
  • lack of emotion
  • moodiness
  • sadness, possibly depression

When to seek help
Ask for a doctor's advice as soon as you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one.  However, be aware that people experiencing anorexia often resist treatment.  Unless you are the person's legal guardian, or have legal authority, you cannot force a person to seek help.  Your support, in a loving and concerned way, can help convince a person to see a doctor for a diagnosis.  To learn more about what a doctor will look for in making a diagnosis of anorexia causes, read here for additional information on anorexia.

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Tags: anorexia nervosa, anorexia causes, difficulty concentrating, Menstruation, behavioural, metabolism, amenorrhea, appearance, Depression, heart rate, dizziness, treatment, stressors, diagnosis, vomiting, addition, symptoms, fatigue, chronic, amounts
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