As there is no guaranteed way to prevent AN, early detection of warning signs of anorexia, and intervention offer the greatest opportunity to heal from this eating disorder. Educating yourself and your community about the warning signs of AN can help create supportive allies for those struggling and make sure that they know they do not need to suffer alone in silence. Community support can help reduce feelings of shame and isolation for individuals with AN and other EDs and enable earlier access to specialized treatment and support. (1,2)
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, AN warning signs can be divided into two main categories, emotional/behavioral signs and physical signs. (3) It is also important to note the impact of risk factors associated with the development of this eating disorder, and be especially aware of early signs of AN developing in individuals who are at higher risk for the illness.
While the reasons that any individual develops AN are complex and unique, being attentive to common warning sizes in yourself and others in your life, especially children, can help facilitate early detection and intervention. The following signs and risks are common but not universal, as AN can develop in people of any body size and not every person with the disorder will exhibit every single associated behavior.
The term “risk factor” refers to a quantifiable characteristic that precedes the onset of a disorder. According to a study specifically dedicated to risk factors of AN, they can be divided into four categories: personal vulnerability, environmental, dieting vulnerability, and age. These categories were then further specified into the following subcategories. (4)
Anorexia nervosa is a serious illness which can have significant psychological, physical, and social impacts on individuals who are struggling as well as their families and communities. It can result in long term medical complications and even death. Early detection and intervention is linked to better treatment outcomes and reduced chances of long-term illness of AN left. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent AN, awareness of risk factors, attentiveness to early warning signs, and access to immediate and supportive care are important ways to facilitate the best possible outcome. If you think you or someone you know may be struggling with anorexia nervosa, learning more and reaching out for advice and support are important steps towards healing.