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People who have anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible by not eating enough food or exercising too much, or both. This can make them very ill because they start to starve.
They often have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they are fat even when they are underweight.
Men and women of any age can get anorexia, but it’s most common in young women and typically starts in the mid-teens.
Signs and symptoms of anorexia
Signs and symptoms of anorexia include:
- if you’re under 18, your weight and height being lower than expected for your age
- if you’re an adult, having an unusually low body mass index (BMI)
- missing meals, eating very little or avoiding eating any foods you see as fattening
- believing you are fat when you are a healthy weight or underweight
- taking medication to reduce your hunger (appetite suppressants)
- your periods stopping (in women who have not reached menopause) or not starting (in younger women and girls)
- physical problems, such as feeling lightheaded or dizzy, hair loss or dry skin
Some people with anorexia may also make themselves sick, do an extreme amount of exercise, or use medication to help them poo (laxatives) or to make them pee (diuretics) to try to stop themselves gaining weight from any food they do eat.
Read more about the symptoms of anorexia and warning signs in others.
Getting help for anorexia
Getting help and support as soon as possible gives you the best chance of recovering from anorexia.
If you think you may have anorexia, even if you are not sure, see your GP as soon as you can.
They will ask you questions about your eating habits and how you’re feeling, and will check your overall health and weight.
They may also refer you for some blood tests to make sure your weight loss is not caused by something else.
If they think you may have anorexia, or another eating disorder, they should refer you to an eating disorder specialist or team of specialists.
It can be very hard to admit you have a problem and to ask for help. It may make things easier if you bring a friend or loved one with you to your appointment.
You can also talk in confidence to an adviser from eating disorders charity Beat by calling its adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.