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Anorexia Nervosa

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.


Anorexia nervosa

is an eating disorder that can lead to severe weight loss. Anorexia may cause you to stop eating or to eat fewer calories than your body needs. The weight loss is not related to another medical condition.

Common signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa:

  • Fear of gaining weight, even if you are very thin
  • Spending much of your time thinking about food and how to lose more weight
  • Body weight that is much lower than is healthy for your height and age
  • Restricting food, measuring or weighing everything you eat, or not eating at all
  • Exercising too much to prevent weight gain
  • Feeling tired, weak, and cold much of the time
  • Cracked or dry skin, thinning hair, or fine hair covering your body
  • Stomach pain or an upset stomach, or constipation
  • Mood control problems, such as easily becoming angry, or depression

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.

Seek care immediately 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 feel like it will be hard to get better. You may have a lot of feelings about eating and reaching a healthy body weight. Treatment is meant to help you develop a healthy relationship with food. Treatment may also be needed for health problems caused by anorexia. Treatment may need to take place in a hospital or clinic.

  • Counseling is an important part of treatment. You may work with healthcare providers alone or in a group. Group counseling is a way for you to talk with others who have anorexia. Counseling may center on helping you replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Family sessions can help everyone in the family understand anorexia and what to do to help you.
  • Nutrition therapy means you will meet with a dietitian to plan healthy meals. Others in your family may also meet with the dietitian. Your healthcare providers and dietitian will work with you to make small changes over time.
  • Medicines are sometimes used to help treat anorexia or the health problems it causes. You may get medicine to help improve your mood, control mood swings, and decrease obsessive thoughts. Vitamin or mineral supplements may also be needed if your nutrient levels are low because of anorexia.

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

Treatment options

Care guides

Symptoms and treatments guides (external)

Further information

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