Clinical Features of Anorexia Nervosa
The following are observable behaviours that indicate that Anorexia Nervosa may be present. Please remember never to diagnose yourself or someone else! Always speak to a professional specialised in diagnosing and working with eating disorders.
It is uncommon for a person with Anorexia Nervosa to openly reveal his/her body. The person is more likely to cover up with track pants, big t-shirt, baggy jersey and the like, all in an attempt to display bulk and disguise thinness. You may notice that the person has sagging body skin, protruding hips/ribs etc, but may continue to believe he/she is fat. NO logic is helpful. This person will require specialist medical and psychological help.
Some observable behavioural traits may include:
1. The person may refuse to eat with the family. They have an intricate regime of cooking for everybody else but they themselves seldom eat.
2. There is likely to be an intense fear of gaining weight. These individuals seldom volunteer to go into therapy. An extremely low body weight can be life-threatening and this may result in organ failure and even death. Individuals resistant to any treatment can have a poor prognosis. This is one of the many reasons why input should be offered as soon as warning signs appear.
3. They are secretive about their behaviour.
4. They very carefully choose which diets to follow. For example, they may cut out all fats and/or carbohydrates. The eating style is never balanced.
5. They have an obsession with food. They may collect recipes, cook for others, but do not eat themselves.
6. They may hide food. They may dispose of food in pockets/napkins, hide it away or even flush it away.
7. Cut food into little pieces. At a meal they may spend the entire time cutting food up into little piece and arranging the food on the plate.
8. They will deny their behaviour if confronted.
9. There is clear evidence of obsessive-compulsive behaviour, depression and anxiety. For example, they may count and hoard different kinds of foods, knowing exactly how many of each kind they have.
10. They are rigid and perfectionist. Things have to be done in a very specific kind of way. Often there are rituals which are overwhelming, not only for the individual, but also for family members.
11. They may develop somatic complaints, such as colds, flu etc.
12. They may steal. For example candies, laxatives, clothes and other items.
13. There is poor sexual adjustment. There is a denial of sexuality. If one looks at the body shape of a person with Anorexia Nervosa, it seldom looks like that of an adult. Mostly the body shape is that of a young girl or boy.
14. They deny their symptoms, their needs and the desire to take responsibility.