What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia is a very serious mental illness, which can have potentially life-threatening consequences.

Anorexia is not the same as Bulimia. People with Bulimia usually go through two regular stages, first they  will eat a lot of food in a short space of time (known as ‘binging’). Afterwards, they will go to great lengths to get rid of the food they’ve eaten (which may involve throwing up). This second stage is known as ‘purging’.

Anorexia doesn’t follow the same cycle of behaviour –  instead, it involves constant food restrictions. People with Anorexia may stop eating food altogether, which makes their bodies thin, weak and unwell. In really serious cases, people suffering from Anorexia may eventually need to go to hospital and be fed via a drip.

The most important thing to remember about Anorexia is that it is not a lifestyle choice or a strict diet gone too far.

People with Anorexia are genuinely unwell and really need to seek professional help.

Here is a really informative fact sheet about Anorexia from the National Eating Disorders Collaboration.

Characteristics of Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Disturbed Body Image
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • inability to maintain what is considered a healthy weight

Weight loss
People with Anorexia will have lost an extreme amount of weight and will appear to be very thin (this is sometimes called ’emaciated’ meaning  thin, ill and fragile). This weight loss may occur over a very short space of time.

Disturbed Body Image
Anorexia can prevent people from seeing their body as it really is. This means that even though they are dramatically underweight, they will not be able to see themselves this way. Instead, they may be convinced that they are ‘fat’ or even abnormal.

Fear of gaining weight
Anorexia Nervosa can cause individuals to have intense fear of weight gain, even though they are clearly starving or underweight.

There are also other sub-types of Anorexia. Click here for more information.

Why do people suffer from Anorexia?

That’s a really tough question to answer. There are a whole range of factors which can influence the potential for someone to develop Anorexia. Some known risk factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Psychological factors
  • Society (magazines, celebrity culture, school, friends, family)

Other risk factors are:

  • Self Esteem
  • Negative Body Image
  • Dieting
  • Extreme weight loss goals

Click here to read more about eating disorder risk factors. 

Is it possible to recover from Anorexia Nervosa?

Yes. It’s isn’t an easy journey but with the right support and treatment plan, a full recovery is possible. Seeking professional help and maintaining a commitment to your health goals will greatly increase the chance of returning to full health.

Getting Help

It’s very important to seek help straight away, if you suspect that you or someone you know might be suffering from Anorexia. Professional support is the key to getting well.

Talk to your doctor or visit the  National Eating Disorder Collaboration website for more information on help in your local area.

Beyond Blue is another free, confidential counselling service, with trained professionals available to talk through your situation.

Click here for a list of Support Services.