Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa

Most people associate anorexia with people who restrict their eating or people who ‘need to gain weight’. At Schoen Clinic we work with the person not the label. We endeavour to ensure you get the best opportunity to explore your feelings, thoughts and actions that have led to your reduction in health and wellbeing. Restoring your quality of life and how you view yourself and others is our priority.

We know that beneath the label of anorexia there is a person who has many roles to fulfil and we will explore these with you and how they can pull you in different directions. Our treatment programme includes psychological and psychodynamic approaches alongside psychoeducation and skills development techniques such as mindfulness.

Anorexia: reducing isolation

Anorexia can lead to isolation if you restrict yourself from healthy eating habits and socialising with others. In our culture we often meet with friends and family to eat food. When you feel a compulsion to reduce your food intake, you will often avoid social situations. This isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness, despair, loss of self-esteem and confidence. Often how others respond to your loss of weight and reduction in eating can lead to further isolation as you may feel they lack understanding or have unrealistic expectations of you.

When your anorexia starts to worry you or other people; it usually manifests itself by significant weight loss and associated marked deterioration of your physical and emotional health and wellbeing. The risks of compromised health conditions increase if a person’s body does not get the nutrients and nourishment it requires over a period of time. This can lead to symptoms such as hair loss, constant fatigue, difficulty concentrating, prone to feeling unwell and can often result in anxiety or depression. Do you recognise this in yourself? We are here to support you.

What are the symptoms of anorexia?

It can be difficult to identify the symptoms of anorexia because people do experience changes in how they feel about their body image and dieting and some weight loss commonly occurs. Equally, the typical time of onset for anorexia nervosa is adolescence, which is a time when young people are eating more independently, and mealtime habits often go through changes.

There may be other signs which may alert parents or concerned friends to symptoms of anorexia: for example, an individual may start to wear very baggy clothes and many layers, they may consistently find reasons to miss meals (going to clubs instead of joining friends for school dinners, avoiding social occasions that involve food) and what they say about their appearance may be a sign of body image disturbance.

Because anorexia is such a serious condition, if you have any concerns about a child, relative or friends, it is best to find a way to raise your concerns with them, as anorexia treatment is known to be more effective if started at an early stage. Left untreated for a longer period, a full anorexia recovery is harder to achieve. 

Physical symptoms of anorexia

  • Low body weight
  • Loss of menstruation (periods) in females
  • Coldness due to poor circulation, particularly in hands and feet
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances, e.g. bloating, constipation
  • Fatigue and trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Thin hair that may fall out
  • Fine hair appearing on the body

Psychological symptoms of anorexia

  • Fear of reaching a normal weight, or of putting on weight at all
  • Feelings of depression, such as low mood, irritability; and social isolation
  • Preoccupation or obsession with food
  • Body image disturbance and fixation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem

Behavioural symptoms of anorexia

  • Limiting the amount and/or type of food eaten
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Use of appetite suppressant pills or laxatives
  • Excessive/driven exercise
  • Loss of libido
  • Wearing baggy clothing to hide figure
  • Avoidance of social activities

How does anorexia develop?

There is no one definitive cause of anorexia, however, there are certain risk factors that can increase the likelihood of a person developing the condition. The following factors may contribute:

  • Genetic vulnerability: this can be illustrated in the family history of eating disorders, or other mental health disorders.
  • Societal or occupational pressure to look a certain way.
  • Experience of trauma, including abuse.
  • Experience of anxiety, obsessional or perfectionist traits.
  • Experience of criticism of food intake, weight or bodily appearance. e.g. bullying.
  • Childhood anxiety.