Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening eating disorder that is characterized by a distorted sense of body image, the inability to maintain minimally average weight, and an intense fear of weight gain. This deadly eating disorder has the highest death of any mental illness with a mortality rate between 5-20%; with suicide being the most common cause of death. Individuals with anorexia nervosa face many barriers to treatment, and as a result, many wait years until they receive a formal diagnosis and enter into treatment. The longer an individual waits to seek treatment, the higher the likelihood that the individual will endure complications and long-term effects associated with longlasting anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa can manifest with varying symptoms, numerous contributing factors, and fluctuating timespans that differ among each individual. Below are some early symptoms of anorexia nervosa:

Early symptoms of anorexia nervosa

The majority of early symptoms of anorexia include the preoccupation with food and weight gain to the point that these begin to consume most of their daily lives. Early and clear warning signs of anorexia nervosa include the following:

  • Avoiding social situations where food may be present
  • Wearing bagging clothes to cover up the excessive weight loss
  • Wearing layered clothing to keep warm even during warm temperatures
  • Cooking meals for others but refusing to eat them
  • Obsession with body size and shape
  • Adopting eating rituals such as cutting food into tiny pieces
  • Complaining about being overweight
  • Making excuses not to eat

The definition of longstanding anorexia nervosa

The most precise and specific terms used for longstanding anorexia in the eating disorder field are “severe and/or enduring.” These terms are often used to refer to those individuals who struggle with severe or chronic anorexia symptoms for long-term or much of their lives. Individuals with persistent, unremitting symptoms, of long duration, and treatment resistance can often feel as though they have failed in their recovery journey however It is not uncommon for individual battling anorexia to undergo numerous treatment attempts in various settings. Regardless if an individual has recently been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or has been struggling with this eating disorder for years; longstanding anorexia is not a reason to give up on the recovery journey.

Staying in treatment

It can be difficult to battle anorexia for years on end. However, it is vital to continue to work with your treatment team and try different types of psychotherapy approaches as each individual may react to a specific treatment approach in their unique way. It is also important to surround yourself with a positive body community, online and in person. If you find that you are triggered constantly, then that can be a sign you need to re-evaluate the people in your life as well as your surroundings. Long-standing anorexia does not mean that an individual will never be successful in their recovery, it just means they may experience more treatment barriers than other individuals, and as a result they may need to work that much harder, a practice that much more patience, and always remain hopeful while taking the proper steps and precautions.

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