This problem is more common in young women. Other things that may raise the risk are:
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of helplessness
- Wanting to be perfect
- Fear of gaining weight
- Pressure to be thin
- Having other family members with this problem
- Having other mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety
- A way of life that highlights being thin as ideal
Physical symptoms may include:
- Losing too much weight
- Hair loss or growth of fine hair on the body
- Yellow or dry skin
- Loss of monthly periods in women
- Fainting or light-headedness
- Problems passing stool
- Rapid heartbeat
- Cold hands and feet
Mental and behavioral issues may include:
- An obsession with food and how much fat and calories are in it
- Dieting even when thin
- A fear of gaining weight even when a person is underweight
- Seeing oneself as overweight when one is not
- Excess exercising
- Being secretive about food
- Mood swings
- Lack of interest in sex
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The goal is to return to and stay at a healthy weight. Choices are:
- Nutrition counseling
- Counseling, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and family therapy
Medicines, such as:
- Antidepressants to balance chemicals in the brain
- Vitamins and minerals to boost nutrition
- Hormone replacement therapy for women
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Anorexia Nervosa—Adult)
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders http://www.anad.org
National Eating Disorders Association https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Canadian Mental Health Association https://cmha.ca
National Eating Disorder Information Center http://www.nedic.ca
Anorexia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/anorexia-nervosa. Accessed November 17, 2020.
Anorexia nervosa. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/eating-disorders/anorexia-nervosa. Accessed November 17, 2020.
Anorexia nervosa. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/eating-disorders/anorexia-nervosa. Accessed November 17, 2020.
Zipfel S, Giel KE, et al. Anorexia nervosa: aetiology, assessment, and treatment. Lancet Psychiatry. 2015 Dec;2(12):1099-1111.