Anorexia Nervosa

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

People with anorexia nervosa cut down on their food intake drastically, which causes dramatic weight loss. They will often use tools such as excessive exercise, purging, laxatives, enemas and diuretics to lose more weight.

Most people with anorexia nervosa have a distorted view of their body and an intense fear of gaining weight. One of the most obvious symptoms is anxiety around food, with the person skipping meals, cutting out types of food, being secretive about eating and severely restricting their intake.

Teenage boy with anorexia and depression needs medical support

The nature of the disorder means that people with anorexia nervosa may truly believe that they don’t have a problem. The nature of the illness, combined with the effects of malnutrition, often also cause personality changes, mood swings and confrontational behaviour, particularly around food.

It can be difficult to decide if your loved one has an eating disorder or is simply getting carried away with dieting or food fads… or maybe behaving like a ‘typical teenager’.

People with the disorder often make a huge effort to disguise their eating and body changes, and commonly deny that anything is wrong.  This is a not a deliberate or deceitful act on their part, but a common characteristic of the disease.

Adolescent eating disorder patient has low mood and needs medical support

If you think your loved one may have anorexia, look out for these warning signs.

Changes to behaviour

  • Skipping meals or refusing to eat
  • Being secretive around food
  • Cutting out all ‘unhealthy’ foods or eating a limited number of foods
  • Making excuses for not eating and denying hunger
  • Rigid rituals around food, such as cutting food into tiny pieces
Adolescent is restricting food and at risk for anorexia and other eating disorders
  • Weighing and measuring food
  • Drinking a lot of water or chewing gum
  • Cooking for others but refusing to eat
  • Frequently weighing and checking themselves in the mirror
  • Excessive exercise
  • Purging or vomiting
  • Wearing baggy or layered clothing
  • Frequent complaints about feeling fat, full, or bloated
  • Constant preoccupation with food

Psychological Changes – Anorexia Nervosa

  • Distorted perception – a wide gap between self-image and actual appearance
  • Difficulty concentrating, restlessness or hyperactivity, forgetfulness
  • Poor judgement
  • Denial or refusing to acknowledge the severity of the problem
  • Obsessive compulsive behaviour
  • Depression – loss of interest in friends and activities, lack of spontaneity, lack of initiative, flattened emotional responses, irritability, insomnia and diminished interest in sex.
  • Changes in personality or mood swings
Girl crying during family therapy for her eating disorder

Physical Changes – Anorexia Nervosa

  • Unusually thin appearance or weight loss (not always dramatic or noticeable)
  • Absence of periods in girls and women
  • Fatigue, dizziness or fainting
  • Brittle nails, hair thinning, breaking or falling out
  • Soft, downy hair covering the body
  • Constipation and abdominal pain, bloating
  • Dry skin
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Abnormal blood count
  • Irregular heart rhythms, low pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of bone mass

Are you concerned someone you love may be suffering from Anorexia?

Take the Early Identification test here.

Jennifer’s daughter was diagnosed with anorexia at 17. Read her story.

Become a member of EDFA for $25 per year (Australian Carers Only)

EDFA is a proud not-for-profit, predominantly volunteer-run organisation. 

We invite you to be part of a revolutionary peer support group making positive changes in the eating disorder space. Strength in numbers means we are able to affect change and have the collective voice of the carers recognised.

We provide opportunities to connect with other parents and carers who share your experiences, helping you to feel less alone and isolated.

Yearly membership is just $25.

Membership gives access to:

A range of resources in our Member Only section of the website including Educational Recordings, Member Recommended Clinicians and Services, and more.

Over 70 support groups and education sessions per year. including:

Twice monthly education sessions

strive Carer Support Groups for carers of loved ones with any type of eating disorder (run three times each month)

strive ARFID Carer Support Group (run monthly)

strive bulimia nervosa Carer Support Group (run quarterly)

strive binge eating disorder Carer Support Group (run quarterly) 

strive4Men Carer Support Group (run quarterly) – a group for male carers 

siblings Support Group (run monthly) – a group for siblings of those with an eating disorder

daily online support through our private strive Australia Facebook Group and the opportunity to connect, share, learn and ask questions is another benefit of being part of our EDFA community.

discounts to eating disorder events and conferences

Your membership helps EDFA with ongoing costs of running a not-for-profit organisation, and importantly, shows Government that families value, need and believe in this type of lived experience support. Strength in numbers helps EDFA lobby as the collective voice of carers for  better services, treatments, access to expert clinicians and specialised eating disorder units, to help our loved ones in their recovery journey and to acknowledge the impact of an eating disorder diagnosis on the entire family unit.

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