What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is what is known as a feeding and eating disorder. This disorder causes people to become obsessed with their weight, food, and body image. People who suffer from AN tend to have a distorted view of their bodies and may view themselves as being overweight despite being underweight. Because of these distortions, people who suffer from AN go to lengths to prevent weight gain and promote weight loss. These behaviors may include food restriction/starvation, compulsive exercise, and purging. In many cases, AN has been correlated with the individual’s sense of powerlessness and the false sense of control AN provides. AN is a serious mental health disorder; it is estimated that around 24 million people in the US suffer from an eating disorder. Moreover, despite common myths that only women suffer from AN and other eating disorders, these disorders can affect anyone. 

How does Anorexia Nervosa affect people? 

The main symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa (AN) are weight loss, below average weight, distorted body image, and excessive weight loss. However, other common symptoms include irritability and mood swings, fatigue, dehydration, depression, and social isolation. Further, AN can lead to very serious health side effects depending on the severity of the disorder. For example in some cases AN can lead to kidney failure due to dehydration, anemia, bone density loss, low blood pressure, heart conditions, and even death. In fact, AN is known to be the deadliest mental health disorder because the symptoms of the disorder affect the body directly; people who suffer from AN (or another eating disorder) may also be at risk for dying by suicide. It is estimated that 10,200 people die every year due to an eating disorder.

How do people overcome Anorexia Nervosa?

Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa (AN) can be tricky because people who have AN (or another eating disorder) often hide their eating habits and tend not to disclose their thoughts to loved ones. Oftentimes AN can be treated effectively with a good support team. This might include a medical provider to support you with physical symptoms, nutrition counseling to help you make healthier nutrition choices, therapy to help you process your emotions and challenge your body image distortions, and loved ones who are there for you to support you. In severe cases, intensive outpatient or even inpatient services may be necessary. If you or someone you know is suffering from AN or another eating disorder contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) for support. They can be reached at (800) 931-2237 (call or text) or by chat at: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline

This page is part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.


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