What is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder which most commonly starts in teenagers, most often girls, although many people will begin showing symptoms between the ages of 8 and 10. Anorexia also affects teenage boys and often continues into or begins in, adulthood (both male and female). People who suffer from anorexia are fanatical about losing weight and being thin. They are generally very good at losing weight (through exercise and dieting) and petrified of gaining weight.
(This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

People with anorexia have a distorted sense of their weight and believe they are overweight even when they reach weights which are unhealthily skinny. Indeed, people suffering from anorexia are most often underweight. Suffers of anorexia often use food and weight as a way to manage their underlying emotional issues.
Their eating behaviour is often symptomatic of overwhelming psychological issues and an attempt to deal with painful emotions which have not found another way of being expressed or supported.

Common characteristics of anorexia nervosa

It can be useful to know the signs of anorexia to help screen for this condition in yourself or someone you love. If you are suffering anorexia you may have difficulty self assessing and you should seek some professional help if other’s have expressed concern about your weight or eating habits, or if you find yourself feeling as if you have to keep your dieting a secret from others.

Common emotional or psychological signs of anorexia include:

– excessive focus on body weight and appearance,
– a deep fear of gaining weight and becoming fat,
– an intense desire to be thin (often unhealthily so),
– a belief that they are overweight (whilst being objectively underweight),
– not wanting to eat,
– avoidance of high calorie foods,
– obsessive interest in food facts,
– over exercising,
– constant weighing of oneself,
– refusing to eat,
– denial of hunger,
– depression,
– irritability

Common physical signs of anorexia include:
– low body weight or significant weight loss
– absent or irregular menstrual cycles
– sensitivity to cold
– the appearance of fine body hair (lanugo) on the face or body
– hair loss (head)
– brittle nails and hair
– dry and yellowing skin

What are the causes of anorexia nervosa?

It is unclear what the precise cause of Anorexia Nervosa or other eating disorders is, but psychologists generally agree that it is a combination of various factors that will come into play to cause anorexia or other eating disorders. For some people, these factors might be more easily identifiable. For others, they might be harder to pinpoint. Issues which are generally thought to contribute to the development of eating disorders can include:

– an experience of trauma or abuse (which could be physical, emotional or sexual) – the impact of societal/cultural preoccupation with body image
– grief caused by loss
– the nature of one’s relationship to family or friends
– striving for perfectionism
– stress
– an inability to cope with one’s emotions
– feeling that one’s life is out of one’s control
– chemical imbalances in the brain
– the physiological effects of dieting

Treatment options for anorexia

Treatment for anorexia can be difficult because more often than not, sufferers do not think they are sick enough (or thin enough) to justify intervention. However, anyone who is suffering from anorexia or another eating disorder needs support and treatment, no matter the severity or perceived severity of the illness. You may be concerned that if you seek treatment you will be forced to eat, or that someone will come between you and your dieting and that this will ruin your chances of happiness or the achievement of a body you can live with; however the avoidance of treatment often leads to longstanding relationship difficulties as you try to hide yourself and your private world from others.

There are various approaches to treating anorexia. These include counselling, nutritional advice and in severe cases, hospitalisation. Generally people with anorexia need help to change not just their eating habits, but also the underlying issues which have been having such an adverse effect on their eating and body image.

Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney works with psychologists who are specialists in women’s health issues and eating disorders. Our associated psychologists will take an integrated approach to treatment, but issues that are often addressed in counselling sessions include your eating behaviour and your feelings about your eating habits, your self confidence and how you feel about yourself, your background and what may have led you to feel or act in a certain way. Your psychologist will also guide and support you to find better ways to manage your eating and your health generally.

Please note that, in situations where the weight of an anorexic is so low or where the restriction is so severe that their health might be in danger, a period in a specialist hospital unit may be necessary to stabilise health and eating habits, or consultation by a GP may be required in conjunction with psychological treatment by a counsellor or psychologist.

To enquire about professional counselling by qualified Counsellors & Psychologists in Sydney call Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney. We welcome your enquiry.


All health information provided on counsellingsydney.com.au is general in nature and is provided for information purposes only. The information contained on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat psychological conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to obtaining counselling or psychological advice from a qualified counsellor, psychologist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist or medical practitioner. Please consult a counselling professional or a health care provider about any health concerns you might have about yourself or others. Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney Pty. Ltd does not accept liability for any loss or damage associated with the use of this site. This site may contain links to third party sites including sites on counselling, psychologist services, mental health and other unrelated material. The existence of these links is not to be construed as an endorsement by Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney Pty. Ltd as to the accuracy or quality of the information or services provided by these third party sites and we do not accept liability for any loss or damaged associated with the use of these third party sites.(This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

Go Deeper

Our Services

We offer a variety of services dealing with wellbeing and mental health. Select from one of the options below for further details.