Diagnosis of anorexia is based on symptoms and behavior, although a physician will run several tests of the blood chemistry and functions of the liver, kidneys and thyroid to rule out any other cause of the extreme weight loss. Addison’s disease, Celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease can cause similar symptoms of weight loss. While it has undergone some criticism, anorexia is also considered a clinical psyciatric disorder by the American Psyciatric Association, and is defined as having an intense fear of gaining weight, a refusal to maintain a body weight above 85% of normal for age and body type, three consecutive missed periods, a refusal to admit to the seriousness of the weight loss, and an undue influence of body shape and weight on a person’s self image.
Someone with anorexia may look very thin. She or he may use extreme measures to lose weight by:
- Making her or himself throw up
- Taking pills to urinate or have a bowel movement
- Taking diet pills
- Not eating or eating very little
- Exercising a lot, even in bad weather or when hurt or tired
- Weighing food and counting calories
- Eating very small amounts of only certain foods
- Moving food around the plate instead of eating it
Someone with anorexia may also have a distorted body image, shown by thinking she or he is fat, wearing baggy clothes, weighing her or himself many times a day, and fearing weight gain.