What Are the Signs of Anorexia? Learn about Physical Signs of Anorexia

Written by: Arooj Paulus – B.Sc (Applied Psychology)
Last updated date : February 14, 2023

Signs of anorexia include poor eating habits and having a distorted body image. Poor eating habits might be the result of a psychological problem. Further these unhealthy eating habits lead to poor health conditions in severe cases.

Anorexia is one of the most common eating disorder. People who have it fear of gaining weight. Despite the fact that they may be underweight. There are physical as well as mental signs of anorexia which are as following. See a doctor or a psychologist if you notice these signs in yourself or anyone you know.

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Chapter 1:

Physical Signs of Anorexia

  • Appear underweight as per height and age
  • Abnormal blood count such as low electrolytes and red blood cells
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Heart problems such as irregular heart beat or low blood pressure
  • Pale skin
  • Bluish hand palms
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Constipation
  • Decayed teeth and scars on fingers as a result of intended vomits

Other behavioral signs are

  • Eat selectively
  • Avoid certain foods
  • Diet / fast
  • Over exercise
  • Frequently check their weight
  • Put on layers of clothes to keep warm
  • Over eat then induce vomit
  • Taking diet pills
  • Avoid eating in front of others
  • Avoid social events and friends

Chapter 2:

Mental Signs of Anorexia

    • Fear of gaining weight
      Obsession with thin body
    • Low self esteem

related to body

  • Distorted body image
  • Self criticizing
  • Deny severity of low body weight
  • Irritability
  • Feel down
  • Thoughts of self harm

The effects of not eating enough calories and eating right are severe on health. People who have it may have weak bones, fertility problems, thin hair and nails, and the growth of a fine hair layer all over their body with passage of time. It can further cause problems of heart, brain, and multiple of organs. As a result, it poses a serious risk of life.

Chapter 3:

What Are the Risk Factors?

Anorexia can be caused by number of factors which are as


People who have anorexia in their family or relatives are 50 % to 80 % more likely to get the disorder. Since it runs in family.


Obsessive and compulsive traits in a personality can cause people to stick with fixed eating patterns. Thus make a person prone to restricted eating.
Perfection traits can make a person to think that he or she is not thin to the level of perfection. Hence make them prone to this disorder.


Fasting or dieting may increase your risk of getting an eating disorder. Research shows that anorexia has a strong link with starving. Hunger effects brain such as it causes mood swings, anxiety, fixed thinking and loss of appetite. People who starve for longer time are at risk of developing this disorder. As it can cause restricted eating habits. Also it gets difficult for them to get back to normal eating habits.


When changes in people’s life occur they experience emotional and physical changes. As a result, they both effect eating habits of the person. Hence it can cause a person to be at risk of getting this condition.
Modern society promotes slim body. So having a lean body is linked with beauty and success. Hence people may want thin body due to societal pressure.


Some people might develop an eating disorder as a result of trauma. For example physical or sexual abuse are forms of trauma. Hence controlled eating may be a way for some people to cope with unwanted feelings and painful emotions of trauma.

Chapter 4:

How Common Is Anorexia?

Research shows that it mainly affects teens and young adults. It affects females most. There are 9 % of people around the world who are affected eating disorders. However 1 – 2 % people among them have anorexia. It affects about 0.3 % of teens.

Chapter 5:

How to Prevent It?

If you see any of these emotional, behavioral, or physical signs of anorexia in someone you know then try to talk to them. Primary care doctors may be able to notice early signs of anorexia and prevent it from progressing. Although this condition cannot be prevented, it can be treated more effectively if caught early. If you notice any of these symptoms in someone you know yo can help them by

  • Tell them that being extremely thin is not healthy.
  • Talk to them if they are going through difficult phase of life.
  • Encourage them to seek help and share their emotions.
  • Tell them about the risks of starving.
  • Most importantly, tell them that they do not need to be perfect since there is no such thing as perfection.

Chapter 6:

What Is the Treatment?

A doctor or a psychologist may examine warning signs of anorexia. It is diagnosed using a number of tests. Psychological assessments, blood tests, and X-rays are some of the tests that may be performed.

Treatment include in a group settings with doctors, mental health specialists, and nutrition specialists.

Medical care

It has harmful effects on the physical health of body. Hence people who have it need medical checkups and treatment. Their blood counts, hydration level, electrolytes, and other body functions are needed to be checked. Moreover people who have it may need to be hospitalised in extreme cases. They may need to be fed by tube because they restrict in their eating.


Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to treat eating disorders. The therapy mainly aims to adopt healthy thinking styles and eating habits. Further teens may benefit from family counselling. As young people are careless and lack ability to make healthy choices for eating. So their parents need guidance on how to keep their children healthy and improve their eating habits.


The therapy aims for a healthy weight gain and improve overall health of patient. Thus it is important that people having it eat healthy foods. A nutritionist will help to make a balanced diet plan and set time of meals. Their health and eating habits will improve as a result of this.

Chapter 7:

Call to Action

Poor eating habits might put your life in danger. So, if you see any physical signs of anorexia in someone you know then talk to them about it. However they may not be willing to change their eating styles but convince them to see a doctor. It is a severe mental health concern as people who have it are 5 times more likely to die young and 18 times more likely to do self harm. However with the help of proper treatment it can be treated.

If you know someone who has this condition then you can help and support them. You can learn about anorexia, be polite, motivate them to get treatment, and be kind with them.

Anorexia in teens is also linked to bullying. So enroll in a course to help teens cope with bullying. You can also take courses on body image concerns and low self esteem on the website. You may also find information on related topics such as rigid eating and other eating disorders on the website.

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