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Anorexia Nervosa



Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder and a mental health condition.


People who have anorexia have problems with eating. They are very anxious about their weight. They keep it as low as possible, by strictly controlling and limiting what they eat.


They starve themselves to lose weight because they:

  • Think they are fat or overweight
  • Have a very strong fear of being fat
  • Want to be thin


Even if they are already very thin and underweight, they continue to want to lose weight.


People with anorexia are obsessed with food, eating and calories. Sometimes they try to get rid of food from their body, for example, by making themselves vomit.


Anorexia means 'loss of appetite'.


People can lose their appetite because of other conditions, such as cancer. Doctors may use the medical term anorexia to describe this. However, it is not the same as the condition anorexia nervosa.


People with anorexia nervosa do not usually lose their appetite.

How common is anorexia?

Anorexia can affect anyone. It is much more common in developed countries such as the UK than developing countries.


Anorexia is more common in women and girls. It can also affect men and boys, and some experts think that this is increasing.


Anorexia usually develops over time. It most commonly starts in the mid-teens. In teenagers and young adults, the condition affects about 1 in 250 females and 1 in 2000 males.

Who else does anorexia affect?

If you have anorexia, your family and friends are likely to be very concerned about you already. It can be very difficult to understand why someone close to you has problems with eating.


Anorexia can be very upsetting, both for the person affected and everyone close to them. Supporting each other is very important. It can play a key part in helping the person to recover.

How serious is anorexia?

Anorexia can be a serious condition. Starving yourself affects every part of your body and can lead to health problems. If anorexia is not treated, these problems can become severe and even life-threatening.


Sometimes people can have anorexia for years before seeking help.


Anorexia can be treated, usually with a combination of:

  • Psychological treatment
  • Advice, help and support on gaining weight safely and healthy eating


Treatment also aims to reduce the symptoms of medical problems caused by the anorexia.


Some people make a full recovery from anorexia, and others can improve their condition. However, anorexia can also become a chronic condition.


Occasionally, anorexia can be fatal.


Find out more about anorexia nervosa Symptoms | Causes | Diagnosis | Getting help | Treatment | Complications | Recovery | Men and anorexia


There are some really useful links on the right hand side of the NHS Choices anorexia nervosa page



The following videos have been produced by NHS Choices and show people's real-life experiences of anorexia.


Anorexia - Kate's story

Katie, 21, had anorexia from the age of 14 to 19. She shares her experiences of life with anorexia and explains how she recovered from the eating disorder.



Anorexia nervosa

Professor Janet treasure explains the complex disorder of anorexia nervosa, how to spot the symptoms and describes the impact it has on a person's life.