Illustration of woman sitting at table picking at her plate.

What Are the Warning Signs of Anorexia?

Eating disorders don’t occur overnight. They take time to develop, meaning there will be signs that things are starting to change over time.

Physical, emotional, and mental symptoms, and everything in between, can indicate that things are off, but it’s impossible to act directly on these expressions without knowing what they are. Let’s explore some of the more common warning signs of anorexia and help yourself or a loved one get the help they need before it’s too late.

What Is Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by low body weight. Lack of proper nutrients deprives the body of what it needs to function effectively, and it can lead to dangerous results. Individuals with anorexia typically fear gaining weight, are hyper-focused on controlling their body shape and body image, and don’t concern themselves with the dangers of not being a healthy weight. Knowing the signs and symptoms of anorexia can save lives and get people the help they need.

The Symptoms of Anorexia

Before diving into some of the biggest warning signs of anorexia, it’s a good idea to know some common symptoms individuals with anorexia typically experience. These symptoms can be categorized as physical and behavioral, and you should pay close attention to them if they start to pile up.


Physical symptoms of anorexia range from sleep problems to brittle nails and are all usually a result of a lack of nutrients in the body. These symptoms include:

  • Stomach cramps or abdominal pains
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Brittle hair
  • Muscle weakness
  • Wounds don’t heal well
  • Cavities/poor oral hygiene
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Blueish colored fingertips
  • Absence of menstrual cycle
  • Fatigue


Like physical symptoms, behavioral symptoms don’t occur all at once but can add up over time. One or two of these may not directly mean there’s an issue, but the more they add up, the more attention you should pay to the individual’s condition. Behavioral symptoms include:

  • Often comments about feeling “fat”
  • Always denies feeling hungry
  • Cooks for others but not themselves
  • Always has the desire to burn calories
  • Feels uncomfortable eating in public
  • Shows restraint in releasing or expressing emotions
  • Bingeing and self-induced vomiting to get rid of food and may include the use of laxatives, enemas, or diuretics.
  • Wearing layers or baggy clothing to cover up or to hide their disordered eating

What Are Some of the Biggest Warning Signs to Pay Attention To?

The symptoms above are valid and should be considered when it comes to individuals who might be falling into patterns that lead to anorexia or other eating disorders. But the following warning signs are some of the biggest and most telltale signs you can observe. Whether you’re a family member or friend, look for these warnings, especially if multiple symptoms occur.

Constant Worrying About Food Intake

A negative relationship with food is a big sign that something is off. A constant worry about food intake shows someone who feels uncomfortable with eating. They may refuse to eat or worry about how eating will change their body.

Extreme Weight Loss

Extreme weight changes shouldn’t occur over the course of a few weeks or even a month. Most doctors recommend losing about 1 pound a week, so someone who seems to have shed a significant amount of weight in a week’s time might not be getting proper food intake.

Thinning Hair/Dry Skin

Over time, a lack of nutrients and vitamins prevents the body from maintaining itself. When you don’t eat enough, your skin will start to crack and won’t heal as easily. Hair will begin to fall out in larger quantities, and family members are typically the first to notice. Remember, people with eating disorders usually go to extreme lengths to hide it. If you start to see things that seem off, trust your instincts, and lovingly express your concern.

A Lack of Interest in Social Activities

Lack of food can take a toll on someone’s mood and desire to engage in activities they once felt excited about. If you notice someone who feels the need to stay indoors more often, it might be a lack of energy from little to no nutrients or a lack of sleep, in addition to the other responsibilities they may have. This lack of interest, combined with some other signs, might indicate the presence of anorexia or another eating disorder.

Don’t Ignore the Warnings — Treat Anorexia Nervosa With Help From Toledo Center

Warning signs are key indicators that something is wrong. The next step should be to get help as soon as possible. Toledo Center for Eating Disorders can help. We provide treatment for anorexia and other eating disorders. From cognitive behavioral therapy to adolescent residential treatment, our center provides the highest-quality treatment and medical professionals for anyone struggling with an eating disorder.

For more information or to get help for you or a loved one, contact us today or give us a call at 419-885-8800.




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