Middlebury

 

Anorexia Nervosa

characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss

Symptoms

  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for height, body type, age, and activity level
  • Intense fear of weight gain or being "fat"
  • Feeling "fat" or overweight despite dramatic weight loss
  • Loss of menstrual periods
  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape

Warning Signs

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc)
  • Frequent comments about feeling "fat" or overweight despite weight loss
  • Denial of hunger
  • Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate)
  • Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food
  • Excessive, rigid exercise-regimen--despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the need to "burn off" calories taken in
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities

Health Consequences

  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing.  The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones and may lead to bone fractures
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness
  • Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common
  • Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body
  • Amenorrhea, the absence of a normal menstrual cycle
  • Inadequate glycogen levels, which lead to impaired cognitive and thinking processes, rapid onset on muscle fatigue during strenuous exercise, and impairment of muscle tissue ability to heal minor injuries and repair cells