Anorexia Nervosa

When we think about eating disorders, anorexia nervosa is probably the one that springs to mind. It is the most common cause of weight loss in young women and astonishingly affects approximately 1 in 100 women in their lifetime. Sadly it also has the highest mortality rate of all eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa is characterised by the restriction of food intake, and may also involve excessive exercise and constant weight checking.

If you believe you or someone you know is suffering from this dangerous condition, it is important to seek professional help before the situation worsens. Banbury Lodge has many years of experience in the treatment of anorexia and can help you to change your mindset around food.

Anorexia Nervosa - apple and measuring tape

What is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is a type of behavioural addiction that is defined by low body weight, an extreme fear of gaining weight and distorted body image perception. You may see yourself as much bigger than you truly are, believing you are overweight even when obviously emaciated. You will constantly examine your body in the mirror, repeatedly weigh yourself and could also measure body parts in your bid to ensure you do not gain weight.

While this condition centres around food and eating, its roots are more to do with underlying emotional issues. Those suffering tend to equate thinness with being worthy. This may be triggered by:

  • Trauma, abuse or neglect
  • Unresolved conflict
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Receiving praise for losing weight
  • Peer and media pressure to look a certain way
  • Occupations that require a specific weight, for example, gymnastics, modelling or acting

There are many genetic and environmental factors that could contribute to the development of anorexia. If you feel like you’re unable to stop thinking about food and your weight, don’t delay treatment. Banbury Lodge can help you to break free from the prison of anorexia.

The signs of anorexia nervosa

An individual suffering from anorexia will often do their very best to try and disguise the problem. It may be difficult to spot at first, but there are numerous behavioural, psychological and physical signs to look out for.


Some of the behavioural signs of anorexia include:

  • Dieting and restricting food intake, especially foods they consider ‘bad’
  • Always making an excuse not to eat, for example, saying “I ate before I came out.”
  • Counting calories excessively when buying or eating food
  • Exercising to excess frequently
  • Moving food around the plate or cutting it into tiny pieces when eating
  • Eating very slowly
  • Hiding food at meal times, for example, putting it in a napkin or pocket
  • Becoming more withdrawn and socially isolated
  • Wearing lots of clothes or baggy clothes to try and conceal their weight


Some of the psychological signs of anorexia include:

  • Constantly thinking about food and your body weight
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Denying there is any problem
  • Anxiety about food and eating
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Low self-worth
  • Lack of confidence
  • Setting high or unachievable standards for yourself
  • Increased risk of mental health issues including depression, anxiety and OCD



Some of the physical signs of anorexia include:

  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling weak
  • Abdominal pains
  • Constipation and bloating
  • Always feeling cold
  • Fine, fuzzy hairs growing all over the body
  • Circulation issues and low blood pressure
  • Menstruation issues
  • Hormonal imbalances

Anorexia Nervosa - person weighing and measuring themselves

Is anorexia nervosa dangerous?

Anorexia nervosa can quickly turn into a life-threatening condition as the body essentially starves. Left untreated, this condition can cause a number of serious long-term side effects and may result in permanent damage to your health. You may suffer from bone health issues like osteoporosis, seizures, anaemia, infertility, damage to internal organs and ultimately death.

Studies have also shown that up to 20% of individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa will attempt suicide. This worrying statistic goes to show just how much suffering is involved with this terrible disorder.

Are there different types of anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is complex and is not experienced in the same way by everyone. There are several different types of anorexia, including:

  • Restricting: this is the most commonly known type of anorexia and refers to extreme dieting, fasting and excessive exercise.
  • Binge eating and purging: those suffering from anorexia may engage in binge eating and purging (such as vomiting or using laxatives), as well as restricting their food intake.
  • Atypical: an individual with atypical anorexia may present symptoms of an eating disorder that may not meet the full criteria for anorexia nervosa.
  • Sports and exercise: while this isn’t an official anorexia type, anorexia is prevalent among athletes and refers to engaging in excessive exercise without proper calorie intake.

How to help a loved one with anorexia nervosa

Supporting a loved one with anorexia can be extremely challenging – you will likely feel worried, distressed and even frustrated at times. It is not always easy to talk about eating disorder concerns, but you should approach the situation tactfully and with care,

Some things you can do to help a family member include:

Supporting a loved one with anorexia can be extremely challenging – you will likely feel worried, distressed and even frustrated at times. It is not always easy to talk about eating disorder concerns, but you should approach the situation tactfully and with care,

Some things you can do to help a family member include:

  • Educate yourself on eating disorders like anorexia nervosa. Knowing the facts will ensure you’re in the best possible position to help your loved one.
  • Pick an appropriate time and place. Approach your loved one in a private, safe setting.
  • Write a letter. If you feel anxious about opening up a conversation or worried that you will forget what you want to say, write everything down.
  • Avoid accusations or judgmental statements. Replace the word “you” with “I”, for example, instead of “You haven’t been eating!”, you can say “I am worried that you are not eating enough.”.
  • Listen wholeheartedly. Try to understand your loved one’s point of view and listen to how they are feeling.
  • Don’t let your emotions take over. Although this is a sensitive topic, it is important to stay calm and address the facts when having a conversation.
  • Remember no one is to blame. It is neither yours nor your loved one’s fault.
  • Encourage them to seek appropriate treatment. This can sometimes prove difficult but it is crucial for long-term recovery.
  • Let them know you are there to support them. Offer to take them to appointments, be available for open and honest conversations and be ready to engage in family therapy if necessary.

Addressing concerns about your loved one’s eating habits may not always be well received, however, it plants a seed that will hopefully transform into realisation and eventually willingness to get help. Don’t be disheartened if your conversation doesn’t go as well as you hoped – the most important thing is that your family member knows you are there to support them through any hardships.

Treatment for anorexia nervosa

When seeking treatment for anorexia, it is important to find guidance from professionals who understand the complexities of the condition. Your doctor or therapist should understand and address any co-occurring mental health issues, not just focus on eating habits alone.

At Banbury Lodge, our dedicated team will welcome you to our rehab treatment centre and support you on your journey to wellness. During your stay, you will take part in a number of individual and group therapies. Some of these include:

We will provide you will essential skills and resources that you can use not only during your rehab stay, but as you continue your recovery back home. With the help of our skilled therapists, you will gain a better understanding of your anorexia, including any causes or triggers, and develop coping skills and stress management techniques to prevent yourself from slipping back into old habits.

Anorexia Nervosa - mediation therapy

Five things to know about anorexia nervosa

  • Anorexia can also involve binge eating and purging alongside restrictive eating.
  • You don’t have to be underweight to be diagnosed with anorexia – you may be diagnosed with atypical anorexia if you are presenting symptoms of the condition without having yet lost weight.
  • Males account for 10% of anorexia nervosa cases, however, men are less likely to seek treatment and so it is difficult to know the real figure.
  • Anorexia typically develops between the ages of twelve and twenty-five, however, it can occur at any age.
  • Early treatment is associated with better outcomes – the sooner you get help, the better.

What’s next?

Recovering from anorexia nervosa can be a long and challenging process, but it has the potential to lead to positive change. With effective treatment, you can begin to rebuild your self-esteem, enjoy a healthier relationship with food and your body image and dramatically improve your relationships with friends and family members. Without the chains of anorexia holding you back, you can gain a new perspective on life.

If you are ready to start your journey and get help for anorexia, give our admissions team a call today. Our staff members are always available to answer any questions you may have and will support you every step of the way.

Frequently asked questions

Is anorexia linked to addiction?
Yes, eating disorders like anorexia are classified as addictive behaviours. Individuals become addicted to the behaviour of restricting food, making it incredibly difficult to stop without professional intervention. Just like a drug addiction or alcohol addiction, the person suffering from anorexia will continue to engage in the behaviour despite any negative consequences to their health and well-being.
How is anorexia nervosa diagnosed?
The DSM-5 states that a diagnosis of anorexia requires the restriction of food intake, intense fear of gaining weight even though underweight and disturbance in the perception of one’s body image or denial of the seriousness of current low body weight. If you are concerned about anorexia then it is important to speak to a medical professional in order to obtain a proper diagnosis.
What happens to the body in anorexia nervosa?
Starvation of the body causes essential functions to shut down. Every inch of your body will be impacted by the effects of anorexia, including the brain which even begins to shrink. You will not be able to operate without vital nutrients or energy, and malnourishment can cause irreversible damage to your internal organs.
close help
Who am I contacting?

Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

0203 553 3757