What is it?
Anorexia nervosa literally means 'loss of appetite for nervous reasons' - a strange definition, don't you think, considering that if you have this condition you know that in fact you have no appetite at all but instead you've lost the ability to satisfy your appetite? Anorexia is a way of coping with your life - a way of controlling it in the only way YOU know how. It seems to give you a way of not having to confront anger, fear and problems which may be so huge and complicated that you can't even say for sure what they are, let alone face and overcome them. So what is it all about?

How can you tell if you are anorexic?
Read down the following list and tick off what ones might apply to you:

  • Do you have a strong fear of weighing over seven stone?
  • Have you lost a lot of weight but look in the mirror and think you are enormous and lumpy, even though you are underweight with family and friends telling you that you are too thin?
  • Do you strictly limit the amount of food you eat, perhaps counting calories or weighing things so you don't 'over-do' it?
  • Do you secretly exercise as much as possible, even when you're too tired or unwell, in an attempt to burn off more calories?
  • Do you constantly think about food and how much you're 'allowed' to eat?
  • Do you make yourself sick, or take laxatives, to 'get rid' of food?
  • Do you weigh yourself once, or even more often, every day?
  • Do you love reading recipies and giving other people food that you don't share?
  • Do you skip meals and lie about it?
  • Do you panic if you don't eat what you've planned?
  • Do you write down the amounts you've eaten in a note pad, keeping a close eye on every mouthful?
  • Do you feel isolated, unhappy and irritable, yet unable to confide in anyone?
  • Do you feel that denying yourself food is all you've got to hold on to?
  • Have your periods stopped?

There's a fair chance that if some or all of these questions apply, then eating normally has become a problem even though you may stil be denying it. Read on to understand a little more...

Who gets anorexia?
People of all ages may show signs of anorexia but it is most common in adolescence or sligtly older and is mainly found with females.

What causes anorexia?
Every person with anorexia has it for their own reasons - ultimately it is low self esteem, but that could have been manifested by a whole host of causes eg: family difficulties, losses (bereavement), trouble with relationships, alcohol or drug abuse, rape or child sexual abuse etc.

The National University of Ireland, Galway Student Counselling Service wishes to thank the  counselling service of  The University of Limerick for granting permission to reproduce this fact sheet.