Am I Anorexic? Questions to Ask Yourself

If you are asking yourself, “Am I anorexic?” there’s a good chance you are. It can be helpful to know exactly what the eating disorder is and how to recognize the potential warning signs.

Reviewed By | Michelle Ervin, MEd

Patient with a doctor

If you find yourself asking, “Am I anorexic?” you may be feeling concerned about your eating behaviors, body image, or other thoughts or feelings you’re experiencing. In these cases, it can be helpful to learn about the eating disorder, potential warning signs to look out for, and ways to seek help if that’s what you need. Getting early treatment for anorexia nervosa (AN) can help speed up recovery and minimize some of the damage malnutrition can do to your brain and body.1 It is important to get a diagnosis from a medical professional with expertise in eating disorders who can direct you toward appropriate treatment programs or other types of care.

Self-Diagnosing Anorexia

When you’re asking yourself, “Am I anorexic,” you may be looking for a way to self-diagnose. But this isn’t a recommended course of action. Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental health condition that can even be life-threatening if not properly treated, so it’s best to leave diagnosis and treatment recommendations to medical experts.

If you have these types of thoughts, you should consult a medical or mental health professional. If you recognize some of the signs of the disorder in yourself, please go to a trained health provider as soon as possible with your concerns. 

More than one person dies every hour from anorexia, and death can often be sudden and unexpected.2 The sooner you get professional help for an eating disorder, the better the potential for recovery. 

Am I Anorexic? 11 Questions to Ask Yourself

One way to deal with the question “Am I anorexic?” is to examine the warning signs of anorexia nervosa. This may help you recognize specific symptoms in yourself or understand how serious the case may be.

These questions are not meant to replace an official diagnosis. If you’re having concerns about your thoughts or eating behaviors, you should seek out professional care. But answering affirmatively to these questions is a good indication that something more serious is going on and that you should seek out professional help:

  1. Am I spending a lot of time thinking about food, weight, and my body shape?
  2. Do I intentionally restrict myself from eating certain foods, or even anything at all, because I am afraid of getting fat?
  3. Do I feel the need to exercise to “burn” off something I ate or excess calories?
  4. Am I rigid in my exercise routine and will not miss a chance to exercise, even if the weather is bad or it really doesn‘t fit into my schedule?
  5. Am I afraid of social situations where there is eating, or do I avoid eating with others?
  6. Am I continually worried about how I look and perceive myself as fat, no matter how much I weigh?
  7. Do I use weight loss pills, laxatives, diuretics, or diet supplements to try to lose weight?
  8. Am I continuing to lose weight despite feeling sick or sluggish?
  9. Are family members and friends commenting on my low body weight? 
  10. Have I developed unusual eating habits to hide how much I’m actually eating?
  11. Do I dress in layers so people can’t see my actual size?

Signs of Anorexia

Part of the reason anorexia nervosa is so dangerous is because it impacts all facets of health, including physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Looking for signs of anorexia can be another effective way to determine when it’s time to seek professional care.Below are some of the most common signs of AN.3

  • Dehydration
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Skin issues, such as growing fine hair called lanugo and dry skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss
  • Trouble remembering things, thinking clearly, or making sound decisions
  • Stomach pain and bloating
  • Lack of menstruation in women
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Excessive exercise
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • The appearance of “wasting away”
  • Constipation
  • Weakened immune system
  • Sleep issues
  • Unhealthy BMI (too low)
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Obsession with food and weight
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Low self-esteem
  • Believing yourself to be fat when you likely are not (distorted body image)
  • Refusing to eat
  • Skipping meals
  • Food restrictions
  • Unusual eating habits, like pushing food around your plate or cutting it into tiny pieces
  • Social withdrawal, isolation, and increased secrecy
  • Lack of interest in social events, especially where food is involved
  • Talking about dieting, food restriction, or body image frequently

Medical Definition of Anorexia

Another way to examine the question “Am I anorexic?” is to look at the official medical definition of anorexia nervosa.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) outlines the main diagnostic criteria for AN, including:4

  1. Energy intake restrictions, such as food deprivation or low-calorie consumption, relative to what is necessary to maintain a sustainable body weight and normal body functions
  2. Extreme fear of weight gain or getting fat
  3. Distorted body image, obsession over self-evaluated body weight and shape, and denial that low body weight is a problem

It’s a myth that you need to be significantly underweight to have anorexia nervosa. The DSM-5 uses body weight as part of the calculation to interpret how severe certain cases are, but many people experience AN while presenting at a “normal” weight.

If you’re experiencing the main criteria for AN but aren’t considered “underweight,” you may be struggling with a related issue called atypical anorexia nervosa.

Who Is Best Trained to Diagnose Anorexia?

If you suspect you may have anorexia nervosa, please contact your healthcare provider right away. The following providers can diagnose anorexia:

  • Primary care providers and other physicians
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Counselors, therapists, or mental health providers
  • Dietitians
  • Nutrition counselors

Ideally, a trained mental health professional with experience treating and diagnosing eating disorders will do the assessment and diagnosis. This professional can also help you find suitable treatment options for your situation.

Patient speaking with a doctor

How Is Anorexia Diagnosed?

There is no specific test that can determine whether or not you have an eating disorder. Generally, the process calls for a comprehensive diagnostic intake that looks at various physical, psychological, and behavioral considerations.

A diagnosis usually starts with a physical exam. Medical providers may check your vital signs, order certain laboratory tests or blood work, ask questions about your weight and weight loss history, and determine your BMI (body mass index) to check it against current diagnostic criteria for AN severity. 

You’ll likely also be asked questions about your physical health, eating habits, and exercise routine. Your provider may want to discuss whether you’re sick often, experience constipation or bloating, are often cold, or bruise easily to check against many common signs of AN. They will also likely interview you about your views of your body weight, shape, and size.

They may inquire about your psychological state and history, including questions about your self-esteem, feelings of depression and irritability, and mental acuity. They will also likely ask about family medical history, medication history, and any prior mental health or eating disorder treatment.

Treatment for Anorexia

Treatment for anorexia nervosa should be comprehensive, multidisciplinary, and address the various physical, emotional, and behavioral components of the disorder.5

Levels of care span the spectrum, including inpatient programs at a hospital or treatment center, day programs that are all-day programs but allow patients to go home after treatment, or outpatient programs that a patient visits one or more times a week. Appropriate treatment levels are based on each patient’s medical and psychiatric history, how advanced their state of malnutrition is, and other considerations.


While participating in these programs, patients often receive many types of care, including individual and group therapy sessions, nutritional counseling services, and medical consultations for medication and other types of care.

Many people who struggle with anorexia nervosa benefit from family-based therapy.6 This line of treatment involves several members of a household to help the group learn more about AN as a whole and work together to build an environment conducive to healing at home.6

Behavioral therapies can address your relationship with food and eating, as well as low self-esteem and distorted body image issues, to make positive changes for a lasting recovery. 

Support Groups

Support groups can help sustain recovery, even after leaving a comprehensive program. They provide a safe environment of peers who have similar experiences, understand how you are feeling, and offer support and encouragement.

Finding Help for Anorexia Nervosa

If you’re thinking, “Am I anorexic?” you’re likely already experiencing some issues related to eating or body image. In these cases, finding help is important.

Contact your primary care physician, therapist, or another trusted professional. Tell them about your concerns and ask for an official evaluation. This is often the first step toward enrolling in a treatment program.

If you’re feeling nervous about discussing the subject in person, there are several eating disorder hotlines you can contact. These services offer additional information and resources, often allowing the caller to remain anonymous to help encourage them to be honest and open about their concerns.

Treatment for anorexia can be a long, involved process because anorexia is a very serious mental illness with sometimes grave medical consequences. Recognizing you may have a problem and asking for help is often the hardest part. But recovery is possible.  


  1. Attia E, Guarda AS. (2022). Prevention and Early Identification of Eating Disorders. JAMA; 327(11):1029–1031. 
  2. Eating Disorder Statistics. (2021). National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).
  3. Anorexia Nervosa. (n.d.) National Alliance for Eating Disorders. Retrieved March 24, 2023. 
  4. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR). (2022). American Psychiatric Association (APA). 
  5. Harrington BC, Jimerson M, Haxton C, & Jimerson DC. (2015). Initial evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. American Family Physician; 91(1):46–52. 
  6. Jansingh A, Danner U, Hoek HW, van Elburg AA. (November 2020). Developments in the psychological treatment of anorexia nervosa and their implications for daily practice. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 33(6):534-541.

Last Update | 06 - 17 - 2024

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