Marked by extremely restricted food intake, unhealthy weight loss, and a distorted body image, anorexia poses a serious health risk.


“Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss (or lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children); difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image,” according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Those with anorexia commonly restrict calories and/or the types of foods they eat. Compulsive exercise, purging, and bingeing can also be characteristics of the disorder.

While anorexia frequently appears during adolescence, children and older adults are also vulnerable. Eating disorders like anorexia can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation, and not everyone struggling with anorexia will look emaciated or underweight.

“[Anorexia] is more than twice as common in teenage girls, with an average age of onset of 15 years.” – The NCBI

Anorexia Nervosa: What You Need to Know

The onset of anorexia generally occurs during the teenage years. The vast majority of anorexic individuals are female (roughly 80-90%, according to the NCBI), though men have also been known to suffer from this disorder. Because it has such a significant impact on the physical body, anorexia has the highest mortality rate among psychiatric disorders.

Complicating the issue are variants like atypical anorexia, a form of the disorder that includes an intense fear of weight gain and an extreme restriction of food and energy intake — but without extreme weight loss or very low body weight. This means that people with atypical anorexia may have an average or even above-average body weight, making the problem harder to detect. Co-occurring substance abuse disorders can also complicate anorexia, increasing the risk of fatality.

As with all other psychiatric conditions, physical behaviors become part of an intricate web of coping mechanisms, and substance abuse may become woven in. Due to the strength of these extreme coping mechanisms and the psychological beliefs that drive them, recovery from anorexia is about far more than learning how to establish healthy eating habits.

Recovery from anorexia is measured in years, not months. However, even those with chronic, severe cases of anorexia can experience a full recovery. Regular intervention and support are important to this process.

Talk to Us About Eating Disorder Treatment

At Brighten Bay, we have the experience, expertise, and understanding to treat individuals with EDs and any other co-occurring conditions. Our research-backed program is focused on giving individuals ownership of their recovery as we equip them to thrive, both now and in the future. We also provide resources for families to heal and support their loved ones on the journey to healing. If you or a loved one are suffering from binge eating disorder, get in touch with us today to learn more about how to get started.