Signs Someone You Love is Struggling with Anorexia

If you suspect someone you know may suffer from anorexia, check out these warning signs (photo credit:
If you suspect someone you know may suffer from anorexia, check out these warning signs (photo credit:

When a person has anorexia nervosa, they are starving themselves and not providing their body with the basic nutrients and calories needed for survival.  When this happens for an extended period of time, the body takes drastic action to conserve energy and preserve life.  Unfortunately, these defensive mechanisms can have very serious long-term health consequences.   The challenge for parents, teachers, coaches, and teens is to know when someone they care about is in trouble so that help and support can be provided in an effort to avoid these negative consequences.  While the main sign that someone is struggling with anorexia is their appearance, there are other signs that can be seen before the disorder progresses to the point that it is visibly noticeable.

1.     Dramatic Weight Loss

One sign that someone you love may be in trouble would be a dramatic reduction in weight within a relatively short period of time.  Healthy weight loss for those who are overweight is generally considered to be 1-2 pounds per week.  If someone is losing significantly more than that, they may be struggling with anorexia or another eating disorder.

2.     Obsession with Food

Many people with eating disorders exhibit a preoccupation or type of obsession with food.  This can include obsessively weighing everything before it is eaten, fanatically tracking weight, food, calories, fat, or other related information, or going on extreme diets. Other signs of food obsession can also include collecting recipes, watching TV cooking shows, and looking at internet food sites.

3.     Distorted Body Image

It is not uncommon for people with anorexia to have a distorted image of what their body looks like.  This can result in very thin people complaining about being fat or obsessively talking about the need to lose weight no matter how much weight they lose.  While it may seem like a strategy to get attention, in many cases the image the person sees when they look in the mirror does not match the reality.

4.     Unusual Eating Habits

Some people with anorexia exhibit unusual eating habits.  This can include things like avoiding entire food groups, eating food in a certain order, denying that they are hungry, and excessive chewing.  People who avoid eating any of their meals with other people or who participate in meals but don’t really eat anything are also exhibiting unusual eating habits consistent with anorexia.

5.     Obsessive Exercise

When people with anorexia do allow themselves to take in some food, they can become obsessed with burning off those calories as soon as they eat them.  People who have become obsessive about exercise as part of their anorexia will be rigid in their adherence to their workout routine.  They will exercise regardless of weather, illness, or injury.  The need to rid themselves of the calories they have taken in can be more important than anything else.

6.     Social Withdrawal

Another behavior that many people with eating disorders like anorexia display is social withdrawal.  They may stop participating in activities they previously enjoyed or stop spending time with friends or loved ones.

Anorexia is a serious eating disorder that can lead to long-term health consequences and even death.  If you suspect someone in your life is suffering from anorexia, reach out and get them the support they need.


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