Text Link

Learn more about the results we get at Within

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Learn more about the results we get at Within

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Can you have mild anorexia?

No items found.
No items found.

“Mild anorexia” is not currently a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM). However, anorexia nervosa (AN) is a complex eating disorder, and doctors may refer to symptoms as “mild” or “severe”. Signs and symptoms may also fall under “early-stage” or “late-stage”. Some physicians also make a distinction between “disordered eating” and true anorexia nervosa. You can learn more about the distinctions between these conditions below.

 minutes read
Last updated on 
January 30, 2023
In this article

Understanding early stage symptoms of anorexia

During the early stages of anorexia, an individual may exhibit a few signs or symptoms of anorexia nervosa. The individual may demonstrate a range of emotional, behavioral, or physical warning signs of anorexia nervosa. However, it is usually not obviously apparent that the person is suffering from an eating disorder. (3)

Early stages emotional and behavioral warning signs of AN

It can be hard to identify the emotional and behavioral changes of anorexia nervosa, as it's easy for them to go unnoticed, especially during the early stages of the disorder. A person with AN generally struggles with their body perception and may feel uncomfortable with their physical self. This discomfort can manifest in many ways. They may dress in oversized apparel to hide their body and any potential weight loss. They may start eating privately instead of in front of others. They may become preoccupied with calories and start refusing to eat certain foods. They could also begin denying their hunger, avoiding meals with others, or giving excuses for why they are skipping meals. Some people will even make jokes about their bodies. (4) At first, emotional and behavioral signs may seem infrequent. Still, as the condition progresses, they'll exhibit symptoms of their eating disorder more often. 

Physical changes with later stages of AN

Someone in the early stages of anorexia nervosa may not have visible physical changes to their body. They're likely losing weight but not enough to draw another person's attention. In later stages they may start experiencing dry skin, brittle nails, or thinning hair due to malnutrition and/or vitamin deficiencies. The person with anorexia may also express physical symptoms such as dizziness, cold, or passing out/syncope due to severe calorie restriction and dehydration. They may have trouble sleeping or are experiencing stomach cramps or acid reflux. Again, these physical signs and symptoms may seem sporadic or faint at first, but monitoring these warning signs and encouraging treatment before they progress is essential.

Difference between disordered eating and an eating disorder

Disordered eating is when a person exhibits irregular eating behaviors. These behaviors can include frequent dieting, food anxiety, chronic weight fluctuations, guilt or shame associated with eating, fasting, purging, and food restriction. Still, their signs and symptoms do not meet the specific criteria to diagnose them with an eating disorder. (1) The most significant difference between disordered eating and an eating disorder is the frequency of irregular eating behaviors. (2) 

An example of disordered eating might be a bride restricting her food intake in the weeks and months leading up to her wedding because she wants to look a certain way or feels uncomfortable in her body. However, the bride returns to more regular eating patterns once the wedding ends. But suppose the women continued to exhibit irregular eating habits to the point where she is actually experiencing weight loss and physical consequences of the eating behaviors.In that case, the increased severity and frequency may qualify the women as having a diagnosis as an eating disorder. 

“Disordered eating” is more than just restricting food. It encompasses all the physical and psychological elements involved in a person's relationship with their body and food. People with disordered eating habits may count calories, over-exercise, obsess about their size, or take other measures to lose weight. If someone is exhibiting the signs and symptoms of disordered eating, they may be at risk of developing an eating disorder and should consider seeking treatment or speaking with a medical professional before the condition progresses.

Seeking treatment 

Seeking treatment for an eating disorder such as AN takes courage. The team at Within Health understands that eating disorders are serious health conditions that can put an individual's life at risk. Within Health offers support for people living with an eating disorder so that they can receive care at home. The personalized programs offered by Within Health uses the latest technology to provide real-time interactive experiences accessible to everyone no matter their shape, size, ethnicity, gender expression, sexuality, or background.

It's vital to seek help, even during the early stages of disordered eating. Early treatment and intervention often lead to a quicker recovery. Contact our admissions team to start your healing journey.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Anderson, M. (n.d.). What is disordered eating? EatRight. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/eating-disorders/what-is-disordered-eating
  2. Fuller, K., & Seide, M. (n.d.). Difference between disordered eating and eating disorders. Verywell Mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/difference-between-disordered-eating-and-eating-disorders-5184548#toc-eating-disorders-vs-disordered-eating
  3. National Eating Disorders Association. (2017, February 26). Warning signs and symptoms. National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia/warning-signs-symptoms
  4. Casarella, J. (n.d.). Anorexia nervosa symptoms: Warning signs to watch for. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/anorexia-nervosa/understanding-anorexia-symptoms


Further reading

Can you prevent anorexia nervosa?

Rather than asking, "How can you prevent anorexia nervosa?" you may be better off asking how to prevent the co

Do I have anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder that may manifest differently in different people and can...

Fasting vs. anorexia

Fasting and intermittent fasting (IF) are popular methods of energy consumption that limit eating to...

Self-help for anorexia nervosa

With its ability to significantly impact a person's psychological and physical health, anorexia nervosa...

What interventions are effective for individuals with anorexia nervosa?

If you have a friend or family member living with anorexia nervosa (AN), you are probably wondering how you...

The similarities between anorexia nervosa and orthorexia

Anorexia nervosa (AN) and orthorexia nervosa (ON) can often be confused with each other due to the similar...

Examining ARFID vs. anorexia

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) and anorexia nervosa (AN) share...

Differences between anorexia and anorexia nervosa

People frequently use “anorexia” interchangeably with or as shorthand for “anorexia nervosa.” But the two...

How anorexia nervosa affects your mental health

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that involves a fixation on food, weight, and body image...

What is the restricting type of anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder, which involves an intense fear of gaining weight, a...

What is acute anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a dangerous mental health disorder that impacts the way people feel about their...

What causes anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a very serious eating disorder, second only to opioid use as the...

What are the long term effects of anorexia nervosa?

In individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN), some may experience its effects in the...

The limitations of using BMI for anorexia diagnosis

The body mass index (BMI) is a calculation made by comparing someone's weight and height. It's sometimes...

The dangers of anorexiant diet pills

Anorexiant diet pills have increased dangers for those with an eating disorder. There...

Signs you need treatment for anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that can have many detrimental effects on someone's...

Signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious illness that may manifest in several ways...

Is anorexia genetic?

For decades, many assumed anorexia nervosa (AN) was a psychosocial illness...

Identifying anorexia risk factors

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN) are complex psychiatric conditions that can have a serious...

Is anorexia a disease?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is not a disease. A disease is when there is a harmful change in...

How to help someone with anorexia nervosa

If you’ve found yourself on this page, it’s likely because someone in your life has anorexia nervosa (AN)...

How does anorexia nervosa develop?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that involves caloric restriction...

The hidden characteristics of anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is one of the most widely-known types of eating disorders, but...

Harmful outcomes of the pro-ana movement

Imagine that there were websites that encouraged people not to get treatment for...

Examining the anorexia death rate

Eating disorders are routinely cited as being among the most lethal mental health...

Early warning signs of anorexia nervosa

Facing eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN) in your own life or that of a loved one can be a...

Can you have mild anorexia?

“Mild anorexia” is not currently a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical...

Can anorexia nervosa be cured?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious, and, unfortunately, sometimes deadly disorder. But...

Anorexia nervosa statistics: gender, race and socioeconomics

When examining anorexia statistics, or eating disorder rates in general, the results...

What is anorexia nervosa (AN)?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder involving a severe limitation of food intake, intense fear of...

Anorexia in the transgender community

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder involving severe caloric restriction...

Further reading

No items found.