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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a very serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by restrictive eating and excessive weight loss.

There are four primary (diagnostic) symptoms:

  1. Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height.
  2. Intense fear of weight gain or being fat, even though underweight.
  3. Disturbance in the experience of body weight or shape, undue influence of weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body weight.
  4. Loss of menstrual periods in girls and women post-puberty.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Student Health (805) 893-3371

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Severe food restriction
  • Calorie or gram counting
  • Uses excuses to avoid eating
  • Hiding food
  • Unusual eating behaviors (picking at food, spreading it around, cutting into tiny pieces)
  • Obsession with food, calories, recipes (cooking for others but not eating anything themselves)
  • Excessive exercise - obsessive negative thoughts if a workout is skipped
  • Purging by vomiting, using diet pills, laxatives or diuretics
  • Consuming large amounts of coffee or tea, smoking or other drugs
  • Social withdrawal

Physical Symptoms

  • Dramatic weight loss in a relatively short period of time
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness
  • Headaches
  • Persistently feeling cold and needing to layer clothing/layering clothing to hide body
  • Pale complexion
  • Menstrual irregularities (including amenorrhea)
  • Fainting, dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Insomnia

Emotional Symptoms

  • Depression, irritability, mood swings, anxiety
  • Believing oneself to be fat when actually underweight
  • Overwhelming concern with body image
  • Perfectionist attitude
  • Self-defeating statements after eating
  • Low self-esteem


National Eating Disorders Association
NEDA Information and Referral Helpline: 800-931-2237

Eating Disorder Resource Website