How Do I Know if I Have Anorexia?

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Knowing if you have an eating disorder can be challenging in today’s society. Many images on social media, television and other platforms portray mixed messages of what is a healthy versus unhealthy look for men and women. So how would you know if you have Anorexia?

Eating disorders are not simply an unhealthy lifestyle. Eating disorders are a mental health disorder that often needs professional treatment to recover.

Eating Disorders on a Continuum

There are ranges to the severity of eating disorders, and there are typically co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and/or a distorted body image tied to the eating disorder [1]. Individuals may begin to diet, or over exercise, and experience positive rewards in weight loss.  Their peers may praise them for their weight loss and unknowingly encouraging the person to continue with the disordered behaviors.

A person will usually begin developing an eating disorder by engaging in unhealthy eating or dieting behaviors. They may start to diet, restrict eating, over exercise, etc. and then begin to receive accolades for their weight loss.  This alone can be a tipping point for someone with a genetic predisposition to anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.

This feeling of success or approval often encourages the person to continue with the restricting, dieting, and fasting which can then lead to Anorexia.

Anorexia Nervosa is a mental health disorder that is characterized by a person working to maintain lower weight through dieting, fasting, restricting food intake, and/or excessive exercise [2].

Anorexia in Stages

When a person has anorexia, they battle an intense fear of becoming fat and will continuously restrict food intake or fast to lose weight. They will become obsessed with thinking about food and being thinner.

Anorexia involves distorted thinking and extreme criticalness of weight, body shape, and more.

Woman holding a guitar

The anorexia leads the sufferer to focus on not eating and to continue to lose weight. This can then lead the person to develop medical issues that are very dangerous.

When a person is in the early stages of anorexia, it can be difficult for the person or loved ones, to identify that there is a problem.

For the person struggling with anorexia, there may be a feeling of empowerment at first which allows them to believe they have control over a traumatic situation or some other aspect of their life. Over time, however, they lose control of the anorexia and control of their life.

Physical symptoms of this Anorexia Nervosa can include extreme weight loss, constipation, dehydration, lack of menstruation, insomnia, chronic fatigue, fainting, and dizziness. Sufferers may also experience dry skin, intolerance to cold, show signs of low blood pressure, lower heart rate, and loss of hair [2].


The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) offers an online screening tool for eating disorders that is free and anonymous [2]. It takes a few minutes to complete, and the tool recommends if professional help may be necessary at the end of the assessment.

Another online tool offered is through Psych Center which provides the Eating Attitudes Test [2]. This test has questions that are similar to an in-person assessment.

Some questions are:

  • Do you avoid eating when you are hungry?
  • Do you focus on eating “diet foods?”
  • Do you like your stomach to be empty?

No online screenings can replace the importance of in-person assessments, but they can help you understand if you are exhibiting eating disorder behaviors and if you should speak with a doctor for further examination.

Regardless of how you realize that anorexia is now controlling your life, you can now do something about it. Seek treatment and begin your recovery today.

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is an Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1] Types and Symptoms • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved February 06, 2018, from
[2] Anorexia Symptoms and Signs: Am I Really Anorexic? (n.d.). Retrieved February 06, 2018, from

The opinions and views of our guest contributors, are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on April 30, 2018.
Reviewed on April 30, 2018 by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

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