A person with anorexia restricts their food intake to an extreme degree. They might skip meals, limit themself to certain food groups, and/or eat very small amounts. This restriction can cause extreme weight loss. An individual may dismiss the severity of their emaciation.
It is not possible to tell if someone is or is not living with anorexia based on appearance. Anorexia is not the same as thinness, and not all people with anorexia are underweight. Anorexia has one of the highest mortality rates of any mental health disorder.
People with anorexia will often go to great lengths to hide their symptoms out of shame. There are many reasons and factors someone could develop anorexia, including familial attitudes; sexual, emotional, or physical abuse; the sociocultural idealization of thinness; and a sense of perfectionism and a need to exert control over one’s life. An individual who feels powerless in one aspect of their life, such as relationships or school, may restrict food as a way to regain autonomy. Oftentimes the fear of gaining weight overpowers an individual’s willingness to stop restricting.
Anorexia can occur in people of any race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, and size. People are more vulnerable to developing anorexia during times of transition or stress. Athletes, especially those playing sports with weight classes, are also at risk of developing symptoms. When reporting on eating disorders, be mindful that including details about specific activities, quantities, or body shapes can prompt others to engage in harmful behaviors. Language such as “lives with an eating disorder” or “is being treated for an eating disorder” (vs. “is anorexic”) reinforces that recovery is possible, as does including information about steps people have taken to reduce or eliminate the disorder from their lives. Nuanced coverage of anorexia accounts for the physical, psychological, cognitive and behavioral dimensions of anorexia, whose characteristic feelings and thought patterns can persist even if food restriction does not.
- Anorexia Nervosa (National Eating Disorders Association)
- Eating Disorders (National Institute of Mental Health)
- What Not to Say to Someone with an Eating Disorder (Verywell Mind)
An eating disorder in which one restricts food intake and experiences severe anxiety around gaining weight. Anorexia can occur in people of any race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, and size. It is not possible to tell if someone is or is not living with anorexia based on appearance. Nuanced coverage accounts for the physical, psychological, and behavioral dimensions of anorexia, whose characteristic feelings and thought patterns can persist even if food restriction does not.