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Anorexia Nervosa

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. You weigh much less than your normal body weight should be. You lose weight by eating very little food, or by bingeing and purging. This means eating large amounts quickly and then vomiting or using laxatives to prevent weight gain. You worry about weight gain, and you judge your weight and shape. The weight loss is not related to another medical condition.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • You want to harm or kill yourself.
  • You have pain when you swallow, or severe pain in your chest or abdomen.
  • Your heart is beating fast or fluttering, or you feel dizzy or faint.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your muscles feel weak, and you have pain and stiffness.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have tingling in your hands or feet.
  • Your monthly period is light or has stopped completely (females).
  • You are planning to get pregnant and need to develop a safe eating plan.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antianxiety medicine decreases anxiety and helps you feel calm and relaxed.
  • Anticonvulsants control seizures and decrease violent behavior, aggression, or irritability. This medicine may help control your mood swings.
  • Antidepressants help decrease or prevent the symptoms of depression.
  • Mood stabilizers help control mood changes.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements may be needed if you are malnourished. You may need to take a mineral supplement, such as potassium. You may also need to take multivitamins to replace what your body has lost.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


After you leave the hospital, it is important that you continue with therapy to help control anorexia:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to help you learn the reasons you are unhappy with your body. A therapist will work with you to change your behaviors and decrease your negative feelings about food and your weight.
  • Group or family therapy is a meeting you have with other people who also have anorexia nervosa. Family therapy is a meeting you have with healthcare providers and your family members. Group and family meetings are a time when you talk with others about ways to cope with anorexia nervosa.
  • Nutritional therapy means healthcare providers will help you create a plan to reach a healthy weight for your height. The plan includes appropriate exercise and nutrition. You may also need extra fluids if you are dehydrated.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How to care for yourself:

  • Be patient. Recovery from anorexia is a process that takes time. You may have times when you go back to not eating, or eating few calories, especially during stressful times. This is common. Work with family members and healthcare providers to get back on track with healthy eating and healthy exercise. Try not to be angry with yourself for the episode. It might help to talk about your feelings with someone you trust.
  • Focus on a healthy self-esteem. Think about everything you like about yourself. For example, you may be a talented artist, or you may write well. Focus on those skills or talents instead of on appearance. Ask others not to comment on your weight or shape. Your healthcare provider can tell you healthy weight ranges for your age and height. It may take time before you are comfortable knowing your weight or seeing your weight as healthy. Remember your goals to build a healthy self-esteem. Be patient with yourself as you change your thinking.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need blood tests when you start taking medicine for anorexia. These tests are used to check how much medicine is in your blood. Your healthcare provider will use the results of these tests to decide the right amount of medicine for you. You may need to have these blood tests more than 1 time. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For support and more information:

  • National Eating Disorders Association
    165 West 46th Street
    New York , NY 10036
    Phone: 1- 212 - 575-6200
    Phone: 1- 800 - 931-2237
    Web Address:
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Anorexia Nervosa

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.