Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, commonly called anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by an excessively low body weight. Officially, a person would be diagnosed with anorexia if he or she weighed 85 percent or less of what is considered normal for someone of the same age, sex, and height.


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People with anorexia struggle with an intense fear of gaining weight and becoming what they consider to be fat. They often try to lose weight, or maintain a very low body weight, by restricting the amount of food they eat or by purging themselves of the food they’ve already eaten. Restriction is often accomplished with dieting and the use of diet pills, while purging is usually done through vomiting and/or the use of laxatives. Between 40 and 80 percent of people with anorexia also engage in excessive exercise to burn up the few calories they allow themselves to digest.

People with anorexia spend a great deal of time analyzing their looks in the mirror, and no matter how much weight they lose, they never think it’s enough. People with anorexia never think they look good enough, despite the excessive amount of time they spend focusing on the way they look and limiting the amount of food they digest. The inability to see the danger of their situation is part of the disorder.

Some people with anorexia also indulge in binge eating before they purge. Binge eating is an activity that takes place in the span of a few hours and usually involves consumption of a large quantity of high-calorie foods. For example, this could mean that a person eats multiple bags of candy and chips at home, or it could mean going to a number of different fast-food restaurants in a short period of time to eat multiple meals. Most often, this type of behavior is done in secret and alone. Many people binge because they feel stressed, anxious, depressed, or extremely hungry. During bingeing, some people feel that they’re out of control and can’t stop eating, while others report feeling like they’re outside of their bodies.

After eating such large quantities of high-calorie foods, people with anorexia feel guilty about what they’ve done and become fearful of gaining weight. So they force themselves to vomit to prevent the food from being digested. Purging can also be accomplished through the abuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or syrup of ipecac. Other people with anorexia offset their binge eating by engaging in excessive exercise or by fasting for multiple days.

A person who regularly binges and purges but is of approximately normal weight might be diagnosed with bulimia, while a person who binges without purging, exercising, or fasting might be diagnosed as suffering from binge-eating disorder.


This website is for informational purposes only and does not provide an official diagnosis. Anyone struggling with a physical or mental health problem should seek the services of a medical or psychological professional as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you’re having thoughts about suicide or hurting someone else, please see our crisis resources list, contact your local emergency services, or go to a local hospital immediately.