Skip to main content
Read about


Learn the symptoms and explore various treatment methods to figure out next steps.
Tooltip Icon.
Last updated March 25, 2021

Anorexia nervosa quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have anorexia nervosa.

Care Plan


First steps to consider

  • See a medical or mental health provider if you are restricting your food intake, are noticeably losing weight, are fearful of gaining weight or being fat, are using weight loss aids, or are increasingly obsessed with food, calories, and dieting.
  • It is important to meet with a provider if you have significant weight loss, you’ve fainted, have noticeable changes in heart rhythm, chronic fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of your menstrual period, or have any significant changes in your mood.
See care providers

Emergency Care

Arrow Icon.

Go to the ER for any of these symptoms:

  • Dehydration (dark yellow urine), severe dizziness or blacking out, heart rhythm disturbances, severe abdominal pain or bloating, or chest pain
  • If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 911 or 988 (the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline).

Anorexia nervosa quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have anorexia nervosa.

Take anorexia nervosa quiz

What is anorexia?

Anorexia, also known as anorexia nervosa, is an eating disorder.

Someone with anorexia has three main symptoms: They have an intense fear of gaining weight, they restrict food (causing significant weight loss), and they may have a distorted view of their body (and think they are overweight when they are not).

There are two types of anorexia: restricting and binge-eating/purging type. The restricting type is when someone restricts their food and calorie intake, leading to extreme weight loss.

The binge-eating/purging type is when someone regularly overeats (binges) and then makes themselves throw up or uses laxatives to flush food out of their system. Although this sounds like bulimia (which is a different eating disorder), there are subtle differences. People with binge-eating/purging type anorexia restrict calories, while those with bulimia do not. Typically, people with anorexia lose a great deal of weight, while people with bulimia may not.

Anorexia stems from a combination of genetic, social, and emotional problems such as poor body image, low self-esteem, stress, history of abuse, or control issues.

It is a very serious condition if not treated. It can lead to heart issues, infertility, anemia, and hormonal complications.

Treatment includes talk therapy, nutritional counseling, family therapy or a support group, and possibly medication.

Anorexia nervosa quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have anorexia nervosa.

Take anorexia nervosa quiz

Most common symptoms

Pro Tip

People in your life will tell you to “just eat.” A common misperception is that this is possible for someone struggling with anorexia. Although it is hard for your friends and family to understand, we know you can’t “just eat.” —Dr. Bobbi Wegner

Anorexia is a serious eating disorder where you have an intense fear of gaining weight. You may see yourself as overweight (when you are not), and restrict the food you eat to lose weight.

Main symptoms

The main symptoms of anorexia fall into four categories: behavioral, emotional, physical, and cognitive.


  • Eating a very small amount of food and restricting food
  • Purging through either induced vomiting, using laxatives and diuretics, fasting, or exercising excessively
  • Secretive behavior (such as pretending to eat food or eating alone)
  • Social withdrawal




  • Self-critical
  • Irrational thinking
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Obsessive-compulsive thoughts around food
  • Being overly focused on food

Next steps

Anorexia is a complex illness. Anyone with anorexia needs to see a mental health professional. Ask your doctor for a referral. Or check your insurance company for a list of covered providers. Also, has a list of therapists that you can search.

If not treated, anorexia can lead to other types of problems like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. It can also cause serious medical conditions like heart and infertility issues.

If you have thoughts about harming yourself, go to the ER or call 911. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 and offers free, confidential support any time of day.

Treatment of anorexia nervosa

Dr. Rx

Anorexia is a serious mental health and medical issue. It goes well beyond just wanting to be thin. Anorexia is a form of self-starvation and has serious medical consequences including cardiac issues and even death. I share this not to scare you, but to seek help sooner than later. —Dr. Wegner

Treating anorexia often requires more than one kind of therapy. You may work with a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker, and a dietician. The National Eating Disorders Association has more resources on information and support.

Types of therapy include:

  • Talk therapy. In sessions with a therapist, you explore your relationship between thoughts, emotions, and your behaviors. The goal of treatment is to learn to notice unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors while developing positive coping skills.
  • Family therapy can teach family members more about anorexia and how they can best support their loved one.
  • Support groups are a way of sharing information and getting emotional support from others going through the same thing.
  • Nutritional counseling can be helpful in developing a healthier relationship with food and healthy eating habits. You’ll also learn how to follow your natural hunger cues.
  • Medication. Antidepressant medications, like fluoxetine (Prozac), are often used to treat anorexia. Other antidepressants are sometimes given to treat underlying mental illness, such as anxiety or depression.

Ready to treat your anorexia nervosa?

We show you only the best treatments for your condition and symptoms—all vetted by our medical team. And when you’re not sure what’s wrong, Buoy can guide you in the right direction.See all treatment options
Illustration of two people discussing treatment.

Who is likely to have it?

  • Anorexia affects females at a higher rate than males, although it affects both genders.
  • Teenage girls and young women are at higher risk.
  • It affects people of all races and ethnicities.
  • People who are hardworking, perfectionist, controlling, introverted, and self-critical are at increased risk of developing anorexia.
  • People from high income families are at increased risk of anorexia.

Anorexia nervosa quiz

Take a quiz to find out if you have anorexia nervosa.

Take anorexia nervosa quiz

Anorexia causes

Pro Tip

Control is most often a huge part of anorexia. When people feel out of control in other parts of their life, one coping mechanism is through controlling their food intake and body. —Dr. Wegner

No one knows for sure what causes people to develop an eating disorder. Experts agree that certain factors increase the risk of getting anorexia. Possible causes include:

  • Family history of anorexia
  • High-income, high-achieving families
  • Poor body image
  • Low self-esteem
  • Being involved in a sport or other activity that focuses on appearance and performance, such as ballet
  • History of abuse or trauma
  • General stress

Anorexia prevention

There is no one clear way to prevent anorexia. Many factors, including genetics, play a role. Following healthy lifestyle habits can make a difference. Parents can help their children by modeling healthy relationships with food.

  • Develop a healthy approach to food and eating. Try lots of food, eat when hungry, and stop when full.
  • Practice mindful eating, where you pay close attention to food as you eat it, without judging.
  • Develop a healthy body image, focusing on the function of your body, not the form.
  • Try to manage stress and anxiety.
  • Notice people who have unhealthy relationships with food among those closest to you (family and friends).
  • Get help with a mental health specialist at the earliest sign of changes in unhealthy eating or thoughts around food.
Share your story
Once your story receives approval from our editors, it will exist on Buoy as a helpful resource for others who may experience something similar.
The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
Dr. Bobbi Wegner is a clinical psychologist, lecturer at Harvard, author, advisor, writer and international speaker. She is the founder and CEO of Groops, an online platform that provides support groups and guided conversations around mental health issues and everyday worries.Dr. Wegner writes and speaks internationally on modern mental health. She has a column in Psychology Today, is a parenting...
Read full bio

Was this article helpful?

Tooltip Icon.
Read this next
Slide 1 of 5