HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.


Anorexia nervosa, also known as anorexia, is a serious eating disorder where you are worried about your weight, you want to lose weight or fear gaining wieght and you eat less and less food, you think about calorie intake and maybe excessive exercising too.

Eating problems such as anorexia are not just about food, they are about feelings too. You may get anorexia because you want to be in control of something in your life at a stressful time or because you want to be popular or fit in and link this with being slim. You might feel that you are overweight or fat even if your weight is normal, which is common with anorexia.

Anorexia usually starts as a teenager but can affect younger children. Girls and women are 10 times more likely than boys and men to suffer from anorexia or bulimia (eating a lot, then making yourself sick) although eating disorders are becoming more common in men. It can occur in up to 1 in 50 schoolgirls.

If left untreated anorexia can have some serious complications such as not getting enough energy and vitamins. This can impact on growth and lead to osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones). In very serious cases, people can die from starving.

Causes of anorexia

Basically, anyone can get an eating disorder. Some things can make you more at risk of getting anorexia such as your genes – whether someone in your family has also suffered with anorexia. Other risk factors include being female, influences from TV, magazines and the internet, and trauma as a child – these are just a few that we know, there are probably a lot more.

Treating anorexia 

If you're worried about anorexia, you're not alone and help is available. It can be very difficult to accept that you have a problem, but when you do, there are lots of people who can help.

It can be really hard to cope with an eating problem or disorder on your own and the first step should be to talk to somebody. Talking to someone might help you feel more able to cope. Try and talk to someone you like and trust, such as a close friend, family member or teacher.

There are a lot of different options to help. There is a range of self-help options available, talking therapies with a psychologist or counsellor, or medication. Talking to your GP is the best place to start getting help and they will talk with you about which option could work best for you. 

Symptoms of anorexia

Young people with anorexia may have the following symptoms:

  • Losing a lot of weight quickly 
  • Eating less and less food 
  • Thinking about the calorie content of food 
  • Feeling panicky about eating food with other people or having a big meal
  • Feeling moody, irritable or depressed
  • Difficulty concentrating and trouble sleeping
  • Girls’ periods may stop
  • Becoming obsessed with everyone else’s body size and comparing yourself to them
  • Often feeling weak and/or cold
  • Hair may become more brittle and thin out
  • Constipation

If you would like more information about anorexia and the ways it affects young people, you can visit the YoungMinds website.


If your GP suggests that medication may help you, the HeadMeds website will provide you with more information about the medication they are recommending, how it works, how you should take it and how you might feel. It should also be able to answer any questions you might have about going on medication. 

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