Anorexia Home > Signs of Anorexia

Having an obsession with one's weight and a compulsion to exercise are some of the early symptoms that can appear in someone with anorexia. Signs of the condition can become more severe as the anorexia progresses, including a belief that the person is fat, even when dangerously thin, and avoiding food. Long-term signs of the condition include anemia, reduced muscle mass, and swollen joints.

Specific Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia

Common signs of anorexia include:
  • Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight
  • Undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation
  • Disturbance in the way in which one's body weight or shape is experienced  
  • Denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight
  • Infrequent or absent menstrual periods (in females who have reached puberty).

More Information on Potential Symptoms

People with anorexia see themselves as overweight even though they are dangerously thin.
The process of eating becomes an obsession for people with anorexia. Unusual eating habits develop, such as avoiding food and meals, picking out a few foods and eating these in small quantities, or carefully weighing and portioning out food.
People with anorexia may repeatedly check their body weight. Many engage in other techniques to control their weight, such as intense and compulsive exercise, or purging by means of vomiting and abuse of laxatives, enemas, and diuretics.
Girls with anorexia often experience a delayed onset of their first menstrual period.

Long-Term Signs of Anorexia

Anorexia signs in someone who has had the condition for a long time can include:
  • Slow heart rate and low blood pressure
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry skin (which may become yellow, and develop a covering of soft hair called lanugo)
  • Mild anemia
  • Brain damage
  • Swollen joints
  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Light-headedness
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart failure, especially in those who use drugs to stimulate vomiting, bowel movements, or urination.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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