Sign In

What is anorexia nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental health condition. It is 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, making themselves vomit, and engaging in a range of self-induced methods of weight loss, for example, excessive exercise, cutting out foods and restricting the amount of food they eat, using weight loss remedies, tablets and diets. 

The condition often develops out of an anxiety about body shape and weight which originates from a fear of being fat or a desire to be thin. Many people with anorexia have a distorted image of themselves, thinking they're fat when they're not.  Anorexia nervosa is a real illness which has biological (including genetic), psychological and social underlying factors. It is important people do not feel blamed and are able to access specialist support and treatment.  

Anorexia most commonly affects girls and women, although it is also seen in boys and men and it is important this is not forgotten. Anorexia nervosa commonly develops during teenage years. Support and treatments are available and we know early detection and early help promotes a better chance of recovery. 

Read more about the causes of anorexia.

What are the signs and symptoms?
People with anorexia often go to great lengths to hide their behaviour from family and friends and often are secretive about these behaviours. This commonly arises due to a feeling of blaming themselves, shame and guilt. It is important schools, colleges, family, friends, colleagues, as well as professionals, support people with anorexia nervosa not to have these feelings. 

Signs someone may have anorexia or another eating disorder include:
  • missing meals, eating very little, or avoiding eating any fatty foods
  • obsessively counting calories in food 
  • leaving the table immediately after eating so they can vomit
  • taking appetite suppressants, laxatives, or diuretics (a type of medication which helps remove fluid from the body)
  • repeatedly weighing themselves or checking their body in the mirror
  • physical problems, such as feeling lightheaded or dizzyhair lossor dry skin, lowering of heart rate, blood pressure, pulse and temperature as well as lethargy and a range of other problems associated with weight loss and malnutrition
  • wearing baggier clothes
  • difficulties and changes in sleep
  • difficulties in concentration in completing work or staying focused on tasks
  • social withdrawal and social isolation
Anorexia can also be associated with other psychological problems, such as depressionanxiety, low self-esteem, alcohol misuse, and self-harm.

Anorexia nervosa is a serious illness and if you are concerned about yourself or someone else it is important to access the appropriate support and treatment as soon as possible. If any of the physical symptoms listed above occur, contact a doctor immediately.

Read more about the symptoms of anorexia.

How can we help you?
There are a range of treatments now available which can help to support people with anorexia nervosa, as well as supporting their friends and family. 

These include information, advice and education about the illness for the individual and their support network. It also includes specialist assessment and treatment from a range of specialist professionals. This can include individual talking therapies, group and family support, creating therapies, nutritional assessment and advice, physical health monitoring and support, and sometimes medications.

We provide services for adults with eating disorders in Knowsley eating disorder service and St Helens eating disorder service, and for children and young people age eight to 18 in Bolton eating disorder serviceHalton eating disorder service, Knowsley eating disorder service, St Helens eating disorder service, Warrington eating disorder service and Wigan eating disorder service.

Further information
Watch our short videos below, recorded by Katie, Millie and Zoe - three young people who have used our eating disorder services - to share their stories of living with and recovering from anorexia.

 Content Editor ‭[2]‬

 Content Editor ‭[3]‬

 Content Editor ‭[4]‬

Back to top of page

© North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust 2017

Cookie and privacy policy

Site designed by Future and developed by St Helens and Knowsley Health Informatics Service NHS Foundation Trust 2017