What is it?
Anorexia Nervosa (AN) can affect males or females of any age, but usually starts in teenage years. It is estimated that 1 in 150 girls and 1 in 1000 boys experience AN.
Young people with AN are often obsessed with not eating and losing weight by meticulously counting calories, avoiding high calorie foods, making themselves sick or exercising excessively in order to burn calories and truly believing that they look "fat" even though other people would consider them underweight. They might wear baggy clothes to cover up weight loss or to keep warm. Anorexia is linked to depression and anxiety, and can also make people feel tired, weak, and unable to concentrate.
Symptoms of AN include:
- Maintaining a body weight much lower that you should for your height (at least 15% less than expected)
- Intense fear of becoming overweight, even when very underweight
- Disturbance in body image; seeing yourself as fat when actually you are very thin
- In girls, monthly periods may stop
What can I do?
Anorexia usually needs regular support from a clinic or therapist, so go to your GP and ask to be referred to CAMHS. There they will talk about what options are available to you.
In the meantime, try to stick to regular mealtimes and if your weight is very low try introducing snacks throughout the day as well. It might help to keep a diary of what you eat, and also your thoughts and feelings when you eat, to see if there is a connection between how you are feeling, what you are thinking about, and what/when you eat. Be honest. With yourself and others. Secrecy makes the anorexia powerful and isolating.