What is anorexia?

What is anorexia?

Anorexia, also known as nervous anorexia is an eating disorder that can have fatal consequences. People suffering from anorexia consume very limited amounts of food, leading to starvation. Eventually, they can become dangerously thin and malnourished while still perceiving themselves as overweight. Often, people with anorexia restrict their food intake severely to prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight.

They may control calorie consumption through methods like vomiting after eating, abusing laxatives, diet pills, diuretics, or enemas. They may also attempt to lose weight through excessive exercise. Regardless of how much weight is lost, individuals with anorexia continue to fear gaining weight.

Anorexia is not actually about food; it is an extremely unhealthy and sometimes life-threatening way of coping with emotional problems. When you have anorexia, you often equate thinness with self-esteem.

How is anorexia diagnosed?

A doctor gathers a detailed medical history and performs a physical examination. Additionally, a neurological examination A doctor gathers a detailed medical history and performs a physical examination. individuals in Switzerland , a neurological examination is carried out in some cases. In the case of children and adolescents, the physician pays attention to age-appropriate development.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, additional tests may be conducted. These can include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound (USG)
  • Laboratory tests, such as electrolytes, kidney and liver function, and urine analysis. Anorexia increases the risk of osteoporosis, so bone density measurement may also be necessary. Clinical psychologists or psychotherapists may also be involved in the diagnosis.

Symptoms of anorexia

In our society, there is a distorted perception that fighting anorexia requires looking emaciated. The truth is that you cannot tell if someone has anorexia just by looking at them; however, certain warning signs can indicate a possible problem.

Physical side effects of anorexia may include:

Anorexia nervosa results in severe malnutrition that can be identified by many other signs besides weight loss, such as the following signs of anorexia:

  • Loss/fluctuation of body fat and muscle mass.
  • Yellowing and dryness of the skin.
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body.
  • Loss of or irregular menstrual cycles (amenorrhea).
  • Constipation.
  • Abdominal pain and gastrointestinal issues.
  • Weakened immune system.
  • Difficulty regulating body temperature or tolerating cold.
  • Fatigue and low energy levels.
  • Dental erosion.

Behavioral and emotional signs of anorexia may include:

People who struggle with anorexia will exhibit certain behavioral and emotional warning signs that indicate nutritional deficiencies and mental health issues. One of these includes:

  • Expressing intense fear of weight gain or obesity.
  • Fixation on body weight, size, shape, and appearance, causing significant distress.
  • Hyper-focus on food, including its nutritional content and physical impact.
  • Ritualistic eating patterns, such as tiny/large bites, food manipulation, eating in isolation, or avoidance of specific foods.
  • Distorted body image.
  • Excessive physical activity, even in adverse weather conditions, disrupting work/school/social life or leading to injuries.
  • Food refusal or eating discreetly to avoid being seen, as well as avoiding eating in social situations.
  • Giving the impression that they have "already eaten" or "aren't hungry."
  • Mood swings and heightened emotional dysregulation.
  • Difficulty with clear thinking and concentration.


There is no guaranteed way to prevent anorexia nervosa. Primary care physicians (pediatricians, family doctors, and internists) may have good opportunities to detect early signs of anorexia and prevent the development of a full-blown disorder. For instance, they can inquire about eating habits and body satisfaction during routine medical visits.

If you notice low self-esteem, rigid diets, and dissatisfaction with appearance in a family member or friend, talk to them about these issues. While you may not be able to prevent the development of an eating disorder, you can discuss healthier behaviors or treatment options.