Conditions we treat

Anorexia Nervosa

Eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa can wreak havoc on mental and physical health alike. Our goal is to help you overcome disordered eating habits and enjoy a healthy relationship with your body.

how & why

Our highly trained, compassionate clinicians are here to help.

Everybody is concerned about their appearance sometimes. You may decide to hit the gym more often if you notice your clothes fitting tighter or replace processed snacks in your diet with fruit for a healthier treat. Trying to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle is perfectly normal, but for people with Anorexia Nervosa, weight and appearance can become a dangerous fixation.

Eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa affect at least 9% of people worldwide at one point in their life. In the United States, that translates to an estimated 28.8 million people who will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime.

If you believe that you or someone you care about might be experiencing an eating disorder like Anorexia Nervosa, you are not alone. Keep reading to learn more about:

  • What is anorexia?
  • What are the signs and symptoms of anorexia?
  • What causes anorexia?
  • How is anorexia treated?

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact emergency services or reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s free, confidential, 24/7 national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for immediate assistance.

Jump to...

What is 

Anorexia Nervosa


Anorexia Nervosa, also called anorexia, is an eating disorder in which people severely restrict their food intake in order to maintain a low body weight. People with anorexia become so fixated on maintaining what they believe to be an “ideal” – that is, exceptionally thin – body type that they go to extreme lengths to achieve it. Anorexic individuals often feel intense fear and anxiety about the idea of gaining weight.

Because food is such an essential part of life – it’s not only how we fuel our bodies, but sharing a meal is often how we spend time with family and friends – eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa can quickly take over a person’s life. Anorexia can feel impossible to escape, but there is hope.

Extreme nutrient restriction has devastating physical effects, and the distorted body image that accompanies anorexic behavior can have devastating mental effects as well. Left untreated, severe anorexia is fatal in 20% of cases. The mortality rate of anorexia drops to just 2% with treatment.

What isn't 

Anorexia Nervosa


Types of 

Anorexia Nervosa

What are the signs and symptoms of 

Anorexia Nervosa


Anorexia can impact a person’s life in a variety of ways. People dealing with anorexia typically exhibit a number of emotional, behavioral, and physical signs and symptoms of their disorder.

Emotional symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Obsessive thoughts about food
  • Feeling emotionally flat
  • Extreme fear or anxiety related to gaining weight
  • Preoccupation with perceived physical flaws
  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Low self-esteem
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal ideation

Behavioral symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Dieting or fasting in extreme, unhealthy ways
  • Excessive exercise
  • Refusing meals or making excuses to not eat with others
  • Chewing and then spitting food out without swallowing it
  • Lying about food, exercise, and weight
  • Wearing loose or baggy clothing that disguises body shape
  • Creating elaborate rules about foods that are “safe” to eat
  • Eliminating broad types of food from their diet entirely

Physical symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Low body weight (this is a common symptom, but not all people with eating disorders are medically underweight)
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Dry, yellowish skin
  • Blue tint to the fingers
  • Downy hair that grows over the skin
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Irregular or missed periods in women

Who can develop 

Anorexia Nervosa


What causes 

Anorexia Nervosa


We don’t know what, exactly, causes Anorexia Nervosa. Like many mental health conditions, research suggests that a variety of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors are at play.

Genetic Causes of Anorexia

Specific genes linked to perfectionism, sensitivity, and perseverance may be tied to higher risk of developing anorexia. In fact, 24-78% of anorexia risk may be linked to genetics. Women and girls are more likely to develop anorexia than men and boys. People with an immediate relative who has suffered from an eating disorder are also more likely to develop the condition.

Environmental Causes of Anorexia

Modern Western culture places a tremendous amount of emphasis on physical beauty, and often that physical beauty is tied to thinness. The body positivity movement has turned the tide a bit toward accepting and celebrating bodies of all shapes and sizes, but thinness is still widely considered to be associated with success, beauty, and personal worth.

In young girls, peer pressure to look a certain way can also have an impact.

Psychological Causes of Anorexia

People with anorexia tend to be perfectionistic in nature, sometimes verging on obsessive-compulsive behavior. Many anorexic people also suffer from anxiety and use restrictive diets and otherwise exercising control over their physical body as a way to cope.

Learn more about anxiety causes, symptoms, and treatments >>

How is 

Anorexia Nervosa


Anorexia is a complex mental health condition. Different mental health professionals have different goals when it comes to treating anorexia – for example, some clinicians may want to increase body weight to reduce physical distress before moving onto psychological treatment, whereas others may take the opposite approach. It’s important to work with a care provider to understand their proposed treatment plan and make sure it aligns with your own beliefs and goals.

Anorexia treatment might include:

  • Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help people with anorexia understand problematic thought patterns and behavior, and change them. Group therapy can also be a powerful tool in overcoming eating disorders because it gives participants a safe, supportive place to talk through their struggles.
  • Medication. There are no drugs specifically approved to treat Anorexia Nervosa, but antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication could be helpful in alleviating some emotional symptoms.
  • TMS. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy is an FDA-approved depression treatment. For people experiencing both anorexia and depression, TMS may be prescribed to help with mood-related symptoms.
  • Inpatient programs. In severe cases, people with anorexia may be admitted to intensive inpatient programs in a hospital, clinic, or eating disorder treatment center.

Anorexia can feel impossible to overcome. Our mental health specialists are here to help you every step of the way.

At Transformations Care Network, we are dedicated to helping people in our communities access life-changing mental health care. If you believe that you are experiencing an eating disorder like Anorexia Nervosa, contact us today to learn what our compassionate care providers can do for you.