Many people work out and diet to lose weight or keep their weight down. There’s nothing wrong with trying to keep healthy, but we all should be aware of the danger lurking around the corner – anorexia nervosa. You might roll your eyes at the mention of it – seriously, it’s impossible that you of all people would have an eating disorder! But a tricky part about it is that anorexia is notoriously difficult to self-diagnose, because it affects your very own body image. Of course, there’s no need to start panicking and suspecting yourself to it, but if you’re trying to lose weight, it is advisable to keep in mind the signs of how to know if you have anorexia.

Deceptive disorder

not eating

Anorexia is a mental health disorder that manifests by trying to maintain a low body weight – by eating less (or not eating at all) and / or exercising too much. The weight loss eventually becomes so extreme that it threatens person’s health and well-being. It’s often accompanied by intrusive thoughts and low self-esteem.

The trouble with this condition is that you might be anorexic and don’t know it – it’s a condition that affects the very way you think about yourself and makes it difficult to diagnose. Even if the victim of anorexia is able to identify their problem, they’re often unwilling to take treatment, because they know treatment will probably make them gain weight – and that’s what they’re pathologically afraid of.

What’s important to keep in mind is that those thoughts are a part of a disorder as well, and after some weeks of treatment, they start to dissipate. Nobody wants to live their lives in perpetual fear (of gaining weight, for example), but sometimes deciding to battle your fears requires lots of courage.

Watch out for these symptoms

Unlike a person who’s just trying to lose some weight to keep healthy, an anorexic person will have a fear of gaining pounds occupy most of their thoughts. Together with this, she or he (around 25% of anorexia sufferers are male) will have a distorted body image of themselves, so it’s hard to tell for yourself whether you have it.


Here are some signs you are anorexic:

  • Your weight becomes less than average for your height.
  • You experience dehydration and constipation.
  • Feeling dizzy and / or fainting.
  • You can’t sleep and are constantly tired.
  • Your hair is breaking more than usual and / or falling out.
  • Your blood pressure is lower than usual.
  • You feel cold often.
  • If you’re a woman, your menstruation stops.
  • Your skin gets dry and / or develops a yellowish color.
  • You develop soft hairs on your body.

If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s advisable to visit a general practitioner regularly to see if your diet and exercise plan don’t interfere with your health – or at least keep in mind normal weight for your height and built. If your pounds drop below average, it’s time to reevaluate your behavior!

Take care of your loved ones

Most of us have people who are exercising or taking up a diet in our lives. Even if you’re not a gym-goer and the word ‘diet’ makes you shudder, you are probably trying to be supportive of your friends’ choices. However, it is important to notice if they start losing control of their dieting plan and lean towards anorexia.

Here are some things to watch out for in your friends or family, to make sure if they’re not at the early (or even late!) stages of anorexia:

  • They are constantly making excuses to avoid eating, even to the point of withdrawing from social situations.
  • In spite of not eating much, they are very preoccupied with food – counting calories, reading cooking magazines, writing down how much they eat, criticizing other people’s eating habits. If these behaviors manifest suddenly, they might be a sign of concern.
  • Excessive exercising is an anorexic behavior more likely to be exhibited by men. Even if they’re feeling unwell, they will try to work out every day to burn the additional calories.
  • Low self esteem – if someone is frequently complaining that they’re not good enough, you should offer your help and support – regardless of whether they have an eating disorder or not.
  • They become irritable and experience mood swings.
Talk to the people in your life that exhibit those symptoms. An intervention might seem a bit extreme at the beginning, but remember that a successful intervention from friends, family or colleagues has already saved many victims of this treacherous disorder!

To put it simply, often it’s hard to know if you are anorexic due to the very character of this disorder. Moreover, people often fail to notice it is happening to their friends – for example, we tend to rule out people who are overweight, even though anorexia might affect someone who is overweight as well and acting too late may be a terrible mistake.

The good way to prevent this is to surround yourself with people you trust and listen to them if they’re concerned about you.

Written by Migle Anusauskaite
Migle is interested in a variety of subjects and finds expression in different mediums. She’s a researcher, comics artist, writer and illustrator. She...
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