Signs, Symptoms, and Consequences of Anorexia

Michelle Rosenker

July 26, 2019

At least 30 million people in the United States are living with an eating disorder. One of the most severe eating disorders is anorexia nervosa, which consists of a person obsessing about his or her weight in a distorted, unhealthy manner. Most commonly, those who are anorexic starve themselves in an effort to avoid being overweight, which is a popular fear within those with this condition.

Like many other mental illnesses, ignoring the need for treatment can be deadly. Just as those who have depression or a substance use disorder require a comprehensive approach to care, those who have anorexia also require that type of care. Without the proper treatment, those with anorexia can suffer death by malnutrition, suicide, or starvation.

Signs of Anorexia

People who have a mental illness will experience that illness in a way that is unique to them. And while the signs of a mental illness can be shared amongst a population, each person afflicted with a mental illness will display a set of signs that is specific to his or her situation.

When it comes to anorexia, each male or female with this devastating illness is going to give off signs of their condition in their own way. Some people might experience countless signs of anorexia that make their struggle unmissable, while others might only display a few signs from time to time. Either way, being aware of the signs that constitute anorexia can be the difference between life and death.

The vast majority of signs of anorexia are emotional and behavioral in nature. When someone has anorexia, some of the most common signs and red flags for this illness can include, but are not limited to, the following:

● Preoccupation with food and dieting, including an over-fixation on calories, grams of fat, etc. in the foods they consume
● Often expressing the desire to burn off any calories that he or she has consumed
● Adamantly refuses to eat specific foods, even going as far as eliminating certain food groups from his or her diet
● Develops ritualistic behavior surrounding eating habits, including arranging food on a plate in a specific way or chewing food in a particular manner
● Cooks for other people but will only eat a bite or nothing at all
● Frequently denies feeling hungry
● Often makes comments about his or her body, such as expressing feeling fat or overweight despite a thin appearance
● Frequently makes excuses to skip meals and/or avoid being in situations where eating is expected
● Maintains a very detailed and rigid diet regardless of anything that might come up that could change it (e.g. a special occasion, forgetting lunch at home and having to buy lunch, etc.)
● Dislikes or is uncomfortable eating in front of others or in public spaces
● Expresses either through voice or action a deep need to be in control
● Appears restrained in expression
● Struggles to be spontaneous
● Fears being overweight
● Is unable to maintain a healthy body weight
● Experiences denial regarding underweight appearance

It is very common for those with anorexia to show off some of these signs during the beginning stages, with more signs coming into view as the illness progresses. In that same breath, it is also not unheard of for people to experience many signs of anorexia at one time. Again, the way in which a person displays signs of this illness is dependent on several factors specific to his or her life.

Symptoms of Anorexia

Anorexia is an extremely serious illness that often requires professional treatment to overcome. The symptoms of anorexia alone can be enough to put a person in the hospital, alter the course of his or her life, or even be fatal. When symptoms of anorexia are appearing, it is important to acknowledge them and work to remedy the root of the problem so that they do not lead to the development of further issues.

Symptoms of anorexia can vary, especially based on one’s general health. Most often, however, they include the following:

● Gastrointestinal problems, such as acid reflux, constipation, and abdominal pain
● Problems concentrating
● Dizziness and fainting spells
● Poor laboratory results stemming from blood work, including issues like anemia and low potassium
● Weakness in the muscles
● Constantly feeling cold
● Slow wound healing
● Dry skin
● Brittle hair and nails
● Dental problems, such as cavities, enamel erosion, or gingivitis caused by vomiting
● Fine hair on the body
● Problems sleeping
● Swelling of salivary glands

Consequences of Anorexia

Living with anorexia is difficult enough as it is, however when consequences of this illness start to develop, one’s mental and physical well-being can be put to the test.

One of the most common consequences of anorexia is malnutrition. Without consuming a number of different healthy food groups, human beings can become depleted of certain vitamins and minerals needed to nurture strong physical and psychological health. This can lead to poor immune function, leaving individuals susceptible to illnesses and diseases that can compromise their health. Additionally, anorexia can leave individuals depleted of essentials such as potassium and calcium. Something as seemingly minimal as a potassium deficiency can be deadly if not remedied.

Psychologically speaking, the continuous cycle of anorexia can trigger the onset of symptoms associated with depression and certain anxiety disorders, making one’s condition much worse. Anorexia can also cause social isolation, as individuals are often focused on hiding their behaviors. Consequences like loneliness due to social isolation, being physically ill often, and struggling with depression, anxiety, and/or any other mental health problem associated with one’s anorexia can be too much to bear. As a result of this, plus other factors, the rate of suicide amongst those with anorexia is so high. One in every five persons who die from anorexia die due to suicide.

The good news is, however, that anorexia is a treatable condition.

Get Professional Anorexia Treatment at JourneyPure Nashville Right Now

At JourneyPure Nashville, we understand how painful the disease of anorexia can be. We know how much it takes from families and their loved ones, and we want you to know that we can help. Our team of devoted, compassionate, and experienced professionals can help make active anorexia a thing of the past and help build a future worth living for.

Do not wait any longer. If you or someone you love is battling anorexia, reach out to us right now. We can help.