“Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss (or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children); difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image,” according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Those with anorexia commonly restrict calories and/or the types of foods they eat. Compulsive exercise, purging, and bingeing can also be characteristics of the disorder.

While anorexia frequently appears during adolescence, children and older adults are also vulnerable. Eating disorders like anorexia can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation, and not everyone struggling with anorexia will look emaciated or underweight.

“[Anorexia] is more than twice as common in teenage girls,
with an average age of onset of 15 years.” – The NCBI

Anorexia Nervosa: What You Need to Know

The onset of anorexia generally occurs during the teenage years. The vast majority of anorexic individuals are female (roughly 80-90%, according to the NCBI), though men have also been known to suffer from this disorder. Because it has such a significant impact on the physical body, anorexia has the highest mortality rate among psychiatric disorders.

Complicating the issue are variants like atypical anorexia, a form of the disorder that includes an intense fear of weight gain and an extreme restriction of food and energy intake — but without extreme weight loss or very low body weight. This means that people with atypical anorexia may have an average or even above-average body weight, making the problem harder to detect. Co-occurring substance abuse disorders can also complicate anorexia, increasing the risk of fatality.

As with all other psychiatric conditions, physical behaviors become part of an intricate web of coping mechanisms, and substance abuse may become woven in. Due to the strength of these extreme coping mechanisms and the psychological beliefs that drive them, recovery from anorexia is about far more than learning how to establish healthy eating habits.

Recovery from anorexia is measured in years, not months. However, even those with chronic, severe cases of anorexia can experience a full recovery. Regular intervention and support are important to this process.

For more advice on how to help support a loved one with an eating disorder, read our blog post “Seven Things NOT to do When a Loved One has an Eating Disorder.”

Depressed girl

Talk to Us About Anorexia Treatment

At The Meadows Ranch, we have your loved one’s best interests at heart, just as you do. Those who are suffering from anorexia deserve healing, but so do you and the rest of your family. We don’t believe there are shortcuts to recovery, but we have seen individuals in our programs learn how to thrive again. If you or a loved one are dealing with anorexia, our knowledgeable and caring staff are ready to help you embark on a journey toward long-term healing.

Call 866-329-7713