Anorexia Nervosa and Atypical Anorexia Nervosa

What is Anorexia Nervosa and Atypical Anorexia Nervosa?

People suffering from 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 anorexia nervosa sufferers 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 or Atypical Anorexia?

Take the Early Identification test here.

Become a member of EDFA for $25 per year

EDFA is a proud not for profit, 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.

Members will receive a welcome pack, including information sheets, introductory discounts on selected Eating Disorder books, discounts to Eating Disorder conferences and events, free access to monthly statewide strive eating disorder support groups, bi-monthly national education sessions and daily online peer support through the private strive FB groups.

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