Someone with anorexia nervosa will attempt to hide their condition and eating habits from those closest to them. The main symptom of anorexia nervosa is the deliberate loss of weight by under-eating, forced vomiting or taking of laxatives (to empty the stomach) and over-exercising.
Food and Eating
People with anorexia will attempt to reduce their weight to as low as possible and will fear gaining weight to the point whereby they can't eat normally. When they do eat, they will try to remove the food from their body by either forcing themselves to vomit or taking laxatives and diuretics.
Other signs that someone has anorexia include: excusing themselves straight after mealtimes and hardened skin on the knuckles (caused by placing fingers down the throat).
Anorexia nervosa does not cause the sufferer to lose their appetite but the way they think about food will differ to other people. This can be displayed by:
- Lying about food and what they've eaten
- Making excuses for not eating
- Lying about their weight
- Uncontrollable thoughts about food
- Spending too much time reading books about food (cookbooks, recipes etc)
- Cooking for others but eating little or nothing themselves
Someone with anorexia nervosa will apply strict regimes and controls to their eating habits. They may follow a strict diet, excessively count calories, avoid any food deemed 'fattening', choose only low-fat foods, skip meals, avoid eating socially or hide their food. Anorexia can also cause someone to take appetite suppressants or slimming pills and drink excessive amounts of caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, cola).
Body Image and Self-Esteem
An anorexia sufferer believes that their worth as a person is based on their looks and weight. By being thinner they believe that others will accept them and like them and therefore think that further weight loss is a positive thing. There will be a distorted view of their body image often thinking they look fat when they're not. A person with anorexia may try to disguise how thin they've become by wearing clothes that are too big.
Low self-esteem and low confidence causes an anorexia sufferer to withdraw and distance themselves from relationships. They may have a lack of concentration, reduced interest in activities or their work performance may suffer.Physical symptoms of anorexia
Poor eating habits will eventually lead to certain physical problems. Anorexia nervosa sufferers find their hair, skin and nails lose condition. Hair on the face and body may increase and pubic hair becomes sparse and thin.
Poor circulation and a slow or irregular heartbeat is common along with abdominal pain, constipation, swollen hands/feet/face, fatigue, low blood pressure, feeling cold, dizzy spells and feeling light-headed.
Young anorexia sufferers will have delayed puberty and may be smaller in size than people of the same age. Older sufferers can cease to have periods or become infertile.