Understanding the Mental Symptoms of Anorexia – Warning Signs

Anorexia nervosa, commonly referred to as anorexia, is a serious eating disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. While most people associate anorexia with physical symptoms such as extreme weight loss, there are also significant mental symptoms that accompany this disorder. Understanding the mental symptoms of anorexia is essential in identifying and treating the disorder.

What are the Mental Symptoms of Anorexia?

  1. Distorted Body Image: One of the most common mental symptoms of anorexia is the distorted body image. Anorexic individuals have a distorted perception of their body size and weight, and they often see themselves as overweight, even when they are underweight.
  2. Fear of Weight Gain: Anorexic individuals have an intense fear of gaining weight and a preoccupation with maintaining a low weight. They may obsessively weigh themselves, restrict their food intake, and engage in excessive exercise to avoid weight gain.
  3. Perfectionism: People with anorexia tend to be perfectionists, striving for perfection in all aspects of their life. This perfectionism often extends to their body weight and shape, leading to an obsession with weight loss and a distorted body image.
  4. Anxiety and Depression: Anorexia can lead to anxiety and depression. The intense preoccupation with food, weight, and body image can cause significant stress and anxiety. Over time, this stress can lead to depression.
  5. Social Withdrawal: Anorexic individuals may withdraw from social situations and relationships due to their obsession with food and weight. They may also become irritable and agitated, leading to conflict with others.

How to Relieve Mental Symptoms of Anorexia?

Effective treatment for anorexia involves a combination of medical, nutritional, and psychological interventions. It is essential to address the physical and mental symptoms of the disorder to promote a full recovery. Some of the treatment options for anorexia include:

  1. Nutritional Counseling: Nutritional counseling can help anorexic individuals develop healthy eating habits and understand the importance of proper nutrition for their overall health.
  2. Therapy: Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help individuals identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors related to food, weight, and body image.
  3. Medication: In some cases, medication may be used to help manage anxiety and depression associated with anorexia.
  4. Support Groups: Support groups can provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals with anorexia to share their experiences and receive encouragement from others who have gone through similar struggles.

How long do Mental Symptoms of Anorexia last?

The duration of mental symptoms of anorexia can vary widely, depending on several factors, including the severity of the illness, the individual’s level of engagement in treatment, and their response to therapy. However, research suggests that mental symptoms can persist even after physical symptoms have resolved.

Some studies indicate that people with anorexia who receive treatment early may have a better chance of achieving full recovery and experiencing fewer long-term mental health problems. However, others suggest that anorexia can have a lasting impact on a person’s mental health, even after recovery.

For example, a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that women with a history of anorexia were at higher risk of developing depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder later in life, compared to women without a history of an eating disorder.

Another study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that people with a history of anorexia had reduced brain volume in certain regions associated with anxiety and depression, even after they had recovered from the physical symptoms of the disorder.


In summary, anorexia nervosa can have a profound impact on a person’s mental health, and mental symptoms can persist even after physical symptoms have resolved. While the duration of mental symptoms can vary widely, early intervention and comprehensive treatment can increase the chances of recovery and reduce the risk of long-term mental health problems. If you or someone you know is struggling with anorexia, seek help from a qualified healthcare professional. Recovery is possible with the right support and treatment.


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