What Does Anorexia Nervosa Look Like?
What is anorexia nervosa in everyday life? Four Winds Hospital in Saratoga, New York compiled a list of physiological, behavioral, emotional and cognitive characteristics that together portray the eating disorder.
Physiological characteristics include low body weight, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, reduced body temperature, lowered resistance to infection, muscular weakness, loss of menstruation in women and reduced testosterone levels in men. There are several implications of reduced body temperature including cold hands and feet, sensitivity to cold and growth of body hair. This hair is called lanugo and is described as a downy layer of hair that covers all over the body, even the face, in attempt to keep the body warm (NEDA, 2005).
The behavioral characteristics include excessive dieting, food control, fasting, compulsive exercising, insomnia and early morning awakening, layering of clothing, frequent weighing and tension or refusal to eat at mealtimes (Four Winds). Food control may include ritualistic eating habits which limit intake or severely restrict food types.
The emotional and cognitive characteristics include intense fear of becoming fat, depression, self-centeredness or anti-social tendencies, irritability, distorted body image, perfectionist thinking, difficulty thinking clearly, low sense of self-worth, denial, and an all or nothing perspective (Four Winds). Perfectionist thinking fuels the desire to be the thinnest which is viewed as being the “best." Due to denial, a person with this eating disorder often does not want help, and other inhibited cognitive processes further impede rational thought.