5 Lesser-Known Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

Symptoms Of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, perhaps the most well-known type of eating disorder, is characterized by restrictive eating, an obsession with body weight and size, and sometimes excessive exercising. It can lead to serious and life-altering consequences if left untreated. Extreme weight loss, malnutrition, and hair loss are among the prominent primary symptoms of advanced anorexia nervosa, but before determining if anorexia nervosa treatment is needed, it is important to determine if other signs of the condition are present. While many people are aware of the more obvious symptoms of the condition, many lesser-known symptoms are important to be on the lookout for as well.


Symptoms Of Anorexia Nervosa

Food Rituals

Anorexia nervosa is often less about food per se, but rather about establishing control over stressful situations. Someone with the condition may create certain patterns or rituals they do when it comes time to eat to both restrict the amount of food they are taking in as well as showing their ability to exercise complete control. Occasionally these rituals make it appear that they are eating more than they actually consume. Common rituals include;

  • Following a very strict meal schedule.
  • Measuring or weighing their food portions.
  • Counting and recording calories that are in the food they are about to eat.
  • Eating meals in specific rooms or areas.
  • Eating food items in a certain order or pattern.
  • Cutting food into smaller than normal bites.
  • Chewing food repeatedly well past the point that is necessary to get it down.
  • Arranging their food in certain positions on their plate.

Substance Abuse

In many ways, the rush of serotonin-induced by disordered behaviors is similar to that provided by drugs or alcohol – in essence, it can act like an "addiction" to disordered behavior. Not surprisingly, addiction and substance abuse rates are higher among people with anorexia nervosa. Most drugs, aside from alcohol that are used are those that increase energy and suppress appetite such as;

  • Caffeine pills
  • Amphetamines
  • Ephedrine

When the majority of caloric intake is derived from alcohol, as can happen in extreme cases, the chances for premature death skyrocket. Normally treatment at a dedicated eating disorder recovery center is necessary at this point.


Extreme Apathy And Fatigue

The body uses the food that it consumes as fuel to get it through the activities that it needs to complete during the day. When dripping below the proper nutritional balance, the body can become weak and fatigued making physical activity more difficult. This can lead to noticeably decreased cognitive function and fatigue. Apathy and other symptoms of depression are also common when nutrition is substandard.


Damage To Hair And Nails

People’s hair and nails are among the first parts of the body to show symptoms of malnutrition and insufficient caloric intake. Cracking and brittle nails and inflamed nail beds can indicate that there is a problem, and the hair may become wispy and thin, even falling out in severe circumstances. This usually means the keratin that is found in protein the body normally consumes is lacking.


Impulsiveness And Mood Shifts

Food restrictions and the resulting nutritional imbalance can cause hormonal imbalances that can have a powerful effect on behavior. Most commonly hormones that are depleted include;

  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine
  • Cortisol
  • Leptin

These hormones are used to regulate mood and behaviors, and when these hormones become out of balance, it can result in behavior and actions that are impulsive or sudden increases in activity similar to hyperactivity.

If someone is suspected of having anorexia nervosa, it is important to look for some of the lesser-known symptoms listed above as well as the more common signs such as restrictive eating and increased exercise. It is important to watch closely for signs if it is suspected that someone has the condition as anorexia nervosa treatment at a proper anorexia nervosa treatment center can lower the risk of major health consequences from occurring. The sooner treatment is received, the better.