Anorexia Nervosa is a serious mental health condition.
It’s an eating disorder where a person keeps their body weight as low as possible. People with anorexia usually do this by restricting the amount of food they eat. They may also make themselves vomit and / or exercising excessively.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria:
Anorexia Nervosa is a complex and serious mental illness that could include one or more of the following features:
- A restriction of energy / food intake in relation to an individual’s requirements leading to a significantly low bodyweight for their age, gender, physical health and developmental stage. Significantly low bodyweight is defined as ‘less than minimally normal’ for adults and ‘less than minimally expected’ for children and young people
- An intense fear of gaining bodyweight or getting fat, or persistent behaviours that prevent an individual from gaining bodyweight, despite them being a significantly low bodyweight
- Distortions in the way an individual’s bodyweight or shape is experienced, an unjustified influence of an individual’s bodyweight or shape on their self-worth or a consistent lack of recognition of the severity of an individual’s significantly low bodyweight
Anorexia Nervosa has two main sub-types
- Restricting type This is where a person strictly restricts their food intake. This could involve rigid rules and obsessions around food.
- Binge-eating or Purging type As above, the individual may strictly restrict their food intake, but may also regularly engage in binge-eating or purging behaviours (e.g. self-induced vomiting, over-exercise, misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas).
Some signs to look out for
- A preoccupation with food, bodyweight, shape and appearance
- Rapid weight loss
- A low BMI for their age
- Restrictions in food intake and/or changes in eating habits
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Disturbances in endocrine functioning (e.g. menstrual cycle in females or testosterone in males)
- Mood changes
- Rigid thought patterns (also known as ‘black and white’ thinking)
- Excessive exercise
- Avoidance of eating meals or finding excuses not to eat
- Loss of libido (sex drive)
- A drop in bodily temperature
Experiencing Anorexia Nervosa
“I started dieting at the age of 15 because I felt everything in my life was racing out of control. A year later both my parents died within 2 months of each other, and I discovered my mother had a long history of bulimia which was the major cause of her death. My world was turned upside down, so I resorted to the one thing that felt safe and which I was good at – my anorexia’.
“ struggled with body image after being bullied in primary school and at the beginning of secondary school, my parents split up and I struggled with self-worth and control, so I began to have my own control with food by restricting.”