Anorexia nervosa disorder is an eating disorder characterized by restrictive eating and in some cases excessive exercising, in an attempt to keep body weight low. Anorexia nervosa disorder can lead to serious and life-altering consequences if treatment is not sought at an anorexia nervosa treatment center. Before determining if anorexia nervosa disorder treatment is needed, it is important to determine if symptoms of the condition are present. While many people are aware of the more obvious symptoms of anorexia nervosa, there are many lesser-known symptoms to look for as well.

Food Rituals

Anorexia nervosa is as much a compulsive behavior as it is a dysfunctional relationship with food. An individual with the condition may create certain patterns or rituals in regards to food intake in order to restrict the amount or type of food they are consuming. Some rituals may also be used as an attempt to appear they are consuming more than they actually are. Rituals may include:

Eating food items in a certain order or pattern

● Cutting food into smaller than normal bites

● Chewing food repeatedly, past the point necessary to swallow

● Arranging food in certain positions on their plate

● Following a very strict meal schedule

● Measuring or weighing food portions

● Counting and recording calories

● Eating meals in specific rooms or areas

Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Sometimes those who have anorexia nervosa will turn to alcohol or drugs to curb appetite or provide some relief from anxiety and stress. It has been found, people with anorexia nervosa that also utilize purging to rid themselves of calories are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs. Most drugs used are those that increase energy and suppress appetite such as:

● Caffeine pills

● Amphetamines

● Ephedrine

When the body has a reduced food intake, the brain can be affected, which can cause an increased desire or need for the drugs they are taking.

Extreme Apathy and Fatigue

The body uses the food it consumes as fuel throughout the day. Without proper nutrition, the body can become weak and fatigued making physical activity more difficult. This can lead to feelings of lethargy as well as diminished cognitive functioning. Fatigue can be exacerbated due to co-occurring presentations, such as depression. This exhaustion can enhance the feelings of apathy and disinterest in things they used to find enjoyable.

Damage to Hair and Nails

With restrictive eating, decreased nutrition can negatively impact the growth and strength of hair and nails. A symptom that often goes unnoticed is damage to these parts of the body (i.e. thinning or loss of hair, brittle or dry nails and nail beds). When this begins to occur, it can mean the keratin protein normally found in the body is lacking.

Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness

Food restrictions can cause an imbalance of hormones in the body. The most commonly depleted hormones include:

● Serotonin

● Dopamine

● Cortisol

● Leptin

These hormones are used to regulate mood and behaviors; when these hormones become out of balance, it can result in impulsive behavior and actions or even bouts of hyperactivity.

If you or a loved one is showing signs of anorexia nervosa, it is important to take note of the lesser known symptoms listed above in addition to the more common signs, such as restrictive eating and increased exercise. It is important to research anorexia nervosa treatment and reach out to a well-known and highly regarded anorexia nervosa treatment center to receive the best care possible and the greatest chance at achieving full recovery.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Five Lesser-Known Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa," in Medicalopedia, October 12, 2018, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/6951/five-lesser-known-symptoms-of-anorexia-nervosa%ef%bb%bf/].