Definition: Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that impacts the way someone eats and how they feel about food and their body.
Anorexia nervosa is a type of eating disorder. It is a highly misunderstood condition but, sadly, has the highest mortality rates of all mental health disorders. Individuals with this disorder struggle with restricting their food intake and excessive exercise, among other symptoms which can be seen below.
Anyone can be impacted by anorexia nervosa. People from different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, genders, abilities, and more can and do struggle with this illness.
People with anorexia nervosa will experience symptoms in different ways. This doesn’t make anyone’s journey anymore or less valid, it’s just important to remember that your own journey is unique to you.
- Severely restricting food intake
- Exercising excessively
- Frequently skipping meals or refusing to eat
- Eating only a few certain ‘safe’ foods
- Rigid rituals around meals or eating
- Fear of gaining weight or loss of control that may lead to ‘checking’ behaviours
- Issues with body image
- Flat mood
- Social withdrawal
People may experience some or all of the above symptoms. In some individuals, there may be additional symptoms including anxiety, depression, and others.
It’s important to note that having anorexia nervosa, or any eating disorder, doesn’t have a ‘look’. Weight loss and changes in appearance are side effects and are not part of the disorder itself. If you’re struggling with disordered eating urges, habits or thoughts, you ARE sick enough and deserve proper care and support.
Eating disorder recovery entails working both on one’s physical and mental health and each journey will be unique to an individual. Treatments can include:
Some individuals may benefit from certain medications, such as antidepressants, to help with symptoms. In some cases, weight restoration may need be the first step of recovery. This helps an individual to get to a weight that is healthy for their body and prevents any further physical damage. This then can lead to further treatments, as mentioned above.
It’s best to talk to your health team when looking at treatment options. They can recommend and guide you through what could be the best fit for you and your well-being.
I have a loved one experiencing anorexia nervosa, how can I help?
If you have a loved one who is struggling, having an open conversation about how you can best support them can mean the world. For example, asking how you can best support them on their journey. You could offer to help with chores, send them a message to let them know you’re thinking of them, etc. Simply being a friend can often be the best thing to do. Maybe even working on a well-being plan with your loved one that may be useful to both of you.
Understanding this condition is also immensely helpful. It can help you and your loved one to better work with what they’re going through. Realizing that their eating disorder is an illness and not them can also be useful to both of you. It’s equally important to also remember to take time out for yourself for self-care.
It’s important for those struggling to know that you can fight and recover from anorexia nervosa. You can find ways to heal from it. There is always hope and people who care about you who will support you on your journey.
Voices of Hope wants you to know that your life has value and you deserve the help, care, and support you need. You can fight anorexia nervosa. You can heal from it and live the life you want and deserve. We understand how difficult mental illnesses can be, but you are worthy, and you are strong. You can get through this. Reach out and keep fighting. You are not alone in your fight. We believe in you. And remember that there is ALWAYS hope.
Resources and Links:
- Mayo Clinic - Anorexia Nervosa
- Butterfly Foundation
- Eating Disorders Association of New Zealand
- Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand - Anorexia Nervosa
- NZ Eating Disorders Clinic - Anorexia Nervosa
- Love Your Kite
- Char's Wellbeing
- Jennifer Rollin
- Bite Back by Sarah Harry
- WebMD - How to Support Someone with an Eating Disorder
- The Mighty - Anorexia Nervosa
- Eating Disorder Hope
- The Body Love Society
Voices of Hope does not offer direct mental health services and our team is not comprised of trained mental health professionals. If you require assistance, we recommend visiting our resources page for helpful information.
If you are in immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, or need advice for someone in your life that is at risk of immediate harm to themselves please contact your local emergency services.