Four Often Missed Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa
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As a parent, being attentive to your teenager is key to observing and understanding any issues that may arise, the same is true of understanding an eating disorder. However, there are some symptoms of anorexia nervosa that are often missed.  Symptoms are are fairly easy to keep under wraps. Review the following potential symptoms of eating disorders in order to assess if your loved one may be in need of anorexia nervosa treatment.

Hair Loss

Hair loss is caused by the loss of vital nutrients and vitamins that should be consumed with food. According to the Eating Disorder Institute, a stressful period of starvation can cause dramatic hair loss about three months after the incident, so hair loss may not be something that is spotted immediately when the disordered behaviors begin.

Hair loss is fairly easy to hide and is not something that would immediately lead to an anorexia nervosa diagnosis. The issue can be blamed on other issues, such as a recent hair treatment or even another illness. Your loved one may try and hide hair loss by:

  • Changing their hairstyle drastically, like cutting long hair short
  • Wearing hats, beanies, or other head-covering accessories
  • Continuously cleaning hairbrushes, pillows and hair accessories to remove lost hair strands

Changes in Sleeping Patterns

Sleep disorders and eating disorders can be closely related, even though sleep disorders are not a well-known symptom of anorexia nervosa. Anorexia affects sleep patterns in various ways. The lack of food intake can cause problems with sleeping through the night because an individual’s stomach may wake them repeatedly. Additionally, people who are lacking proper nutrition can see a major disruption in sleep-wake cycles. In one study conducted by DovePress Medical, people who had an eating disorder also had a higher instance of sleep apnea.

Food Infatuation

An infatuation with food may sound like the opposite of what you would expect as a symptom of anorexia nervosa, but this symptom is fairly common. Your child may show a more obsessive preoccupation with food than they did in the past. A few examples may be:

  • Continually watch shows on TV about food
  • Talk about food constantly, even when the topic doesn’t seem to fit
  • Eagerly volunteer to help you at the grocery store
  • Become completely enthralled when they smell food cooking

Even though they may not be eating, their lack of food intake can make the thought of food even more pressing than it would normally be. During anorexia nervosa recovery, many patients talk about how the disorder left them constantly thinking about food to a point they could barely think of anything else.


Your loved one may show different levels of apathy if they are suffering from anorexia nervosa. You may notice they lose interest in things they truly used to view as valuable or important in their lives. For example, your child may withdraw from social situations.  They  many not care about getting good grades at school or being successful at work.  They may even stop doing things they once enjoyed like listening to music, playing sports or doing something artistic. Apathy is often attributed to typical moodiness, but during anorexia nervosa recovery, many patients find joy and interests that were put on the back burner because of their illness.

In truth, symptoms of anorexia nervosa are not always as obvious as extreme thinness or refusal to eat. The disorder is easy to hide when someone is adamant about keeping their problem concealed from their loved ones.  Do you suspect your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder?  It is important to be proactive about investigating potential signs.  This way you can get them into anorexia nervosa recovery.

At Oliver-Pyatt Centers, they approach anorexia nervosa diagnosis and treatment with the utmost of compassion and care. Their state-of-the-art facilities and highly trained and educated staff are available in both residential and outpatient day treatment forms. Reach out to them for more information if you suspect your loved one needs anorexia nervosa treatment.