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Facts on Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder in which preoccupation with dieting and thinness leads to excessive weight loss. The individual may not acknowledge that weight loss or restricted eating is a problem. One percent of teenage girls in the U.S.
develop anorexia nervosa and up to 10 percent may die as a result.

Anorexia Danger Signals:

  • losing a significant amount of weight
  • continuing to diet (although thin)
  • feeling fat, even after losing weight
  • fearing weight gain
  • losing monthly menstrual periods
  • preoccupation with food, calories, nutrition and/or cooking
  • exercising compulsively
  • bingeing and purging

Physical complications:

  • hair loss
  • gaunt, hollow facial features
  • shrunken breasts
  • dry skin
  • bruises
  • sharply protruding bones
  • cold and blue hands and feet
  • delayed puberty: pre-adolescent females fail to menstruate and develop breasts at normal age; in males, testosterone levels might remain low, leading to impotence
  • menstruation: hormone levels drop, alerting the body that it cannot support a fetus; menstruation becomes irregular or stops completely – can result in temporary or permanent infertility
  • permanent bone loss: susceptibility to stress fractures and osteoporosis
  • mood changes: impatience, irritability, depression, suicidal tendencies
  • insomnia, constipation, sensitivity to cold, kidney failure, abnormally low heart rate and blood pressure

The information on this page was taken from the National Eating Disorders Screening Program Newsletter (February, 1996). The Newsletter was sponsored by The Renfrew Center (Philadelphia and Florida) and was published by the Massachusetts Eating Disorder Association, Inc., a national nonprofit corporation.

Boston College Eating Awareness Team
Last Updated: January 28, 2002