Eating Disorder Treatment Center

Canopy Cove of Tallahassee, Florida

Anorexia Treatment Programs

Understanding Anorexia

Anorexia, also referred to as anorexia nervosa, is an eating disorder characterized by a relentless pursuit of thinness through caloric restriction, an unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight, a distortion of body image and an intense fear of gaining weight.

Anorexia is a serious condition. The medical consequences of the restrictive eating of anorexia nervosa can be disabling or even fatal. Between 5-20% of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa will die. Research shows that Eating Disorders have the highest morbidity of any psychiatric diagnosis. Often deaths are a result of heart failure or other organ failure but it’s important to realize that caloric restrictions impairs cognitive function and places sufferers at a risk for suicide. In fact, suicide accounts for half of those who die of anorexia. When a parent or caregiver suspects anorexia or an associated disorder, it is important to seek care immediately.

Call to speak to a caring admissions specialist 1-800-236-7524

Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

Around food:

  • Dieting
  • Avoiding a widening range of foods
  • Avoiding situations where communal eating is expected
  • New interest in “healthy,” “low-fat,” “low-carb” or “vegetarian” diets
  • Inflexibility about what or when or how much to eat
  • Unnatural focus on what others are eating
  • Need to know calorie content of all foods
  • Never available for family meals
  • New interest in cooking and recipes but avoiding eating the food
  • Foods, especially carbohydrates, disappearing quickly from the house (secret bingeing)
  • Secretive or ritualistic eating
  • Avoiding food until certain hours
  • Anger at others if pressed to eat something
  • Fear of over-eating, or gaining weight from a particular meal or type of food

Around activity:

  • Exercising intensely but without pleasure
  • Needing to exercise to compensate for eating


  • Failure to gain weight or height according to growth curve
  • Weight loss at any time during childhood or adolescence


  • A conviction that one’s body is too large
  • Unnatural focus on the flaws of a particular body part or aspect of the body
  • Repetitive requests for reassurance about appearance


  • Social withdrawal
  • Reports others are newly judgmental or “not connecting”
  • Inability to describe emotions

What Causes Anorexia?

Anorexia is a complex condition that has many contributing factors. Although research on the exact cause is ongoing, various studies have linked genetic predispositions to the development of Anorexia. The known contributors include: biological factors, psychological factors and environmental factors. We firmly hold that families are not responsible for causing Eating Disorders. No evidence exists to prove that families cause Eating Disorders. Treatment of Patients With Eating Disorders, Third Edition, APA Practice Guidelines, May 2006

Who is at Risk?

Adolescents are at a higher risk but this dangerous disorder can find its way into the lives of those younger and older. No one is left out of its dangerous reach.

Groups who appear to be at a higher risk include those who have extremely high standards or are often referred to as perfectionists or overachievers, those who have difficulties believing in themselves and feeling positive about their appearance or judge their worth on their looks are candidates as well. In addition, some athletes are at an increased risk of developing Anorexia.

Challenges of Anorexia

The psychological symptoms of anorexia can include Body Dysmorphia, fixed beliefs about body size, irrational food beliefs, a compulsion to exercise, an obsessive interest in food and nutrition, and social isolation.

It is very important that loved ones know that those dealing with anorexia are often “Anosognosic.” This means they are blocked in their own minds from seeing the gravity of the illness or the risk of the behaviors. This condition presents a treatment challenge, but is reversible. With full nutrition and normalized eating and behaviors, the patient can regain self-awareness and engage in therapy to develop insight, motivation and coping skills.

Body Dysmorphia (BDD)- A distorted body image is a real condition, that can accompany Anorexia, and is not vanity. A person who experiences Body Dysmorphia (BDD) will often say that his or her body looks and feels “fat,” and intolerably large. This is a condition in which the brain is processing visual and internal sensations differently in BDD from the rest of us. It is important to know that even if the person looks too thin to us, that person with BDD may literally see a very large person in the mirror. This is brain-based and not useful or helpful to argue about.

As frustrating as it can be, parents and caregivers need to know that when they try to tell someone with BDD the truth, “you are not fat”, it doesn’t help that person. Until their brain is healed, or they have learned how to cope with these thoughts, what you say will be interpreted as unsettling and perhaps dishonest because their perception is real to them.

Refeeding Syndrome– The refeeding syndrome is a completely avoidable, dangerous condition that takes place when a malnourished patient suddenly begins eating again. The introduction of food can cause an internal chain reaction and a shift in the balance of numerous minerals. It can be a life threatening condition. We utilize a strict protocol and a high level of expertise to avoid the refeeding syndrome and safely re-introduce foods.

The Goal of Treatment:

Eating disorders are treatable and full recovery is the goal of treatment. The first and primary goal in Anorexia treatment is the restoration of medical health. Once restoration of health is achieved, the treatment team will assist clients in identifying and resolving the underlying causes of the eating disorder as well as developing a more balanced relationship with food.

Early Treatment Yields the Best results

Research repeatedly shows that the key to successful treatment is early, well-informed intervention. If you or a loved one shows only a few of the symptoms of an eating disorder, or denies that anything is wrong, this is not reason to put the issue aside. Denying there is an issue and concealing symptoms are common symptoms of brain changes associated with eating disorders and the resulting malnutrition. Many patients are unable to accurately report their thoughts or feelings until treatment is established. Early detection and assertive treatment are the best way to prevent chronic illness and death.

Anorexia is a real condition, not a choice. With excellent clinical care, you or your loved one has a good chance to fully recover and get back to a full and satisfying life free of the eating, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems of Anorexia.

Read more about our Treatment Programs

At Canopy Cove, we have over 25 years of specialized experience helping Adolescents and Adults (and their families) overcome their struggles with Anorexia Nervosa and other eating disorders.

Call to speak to a caring admissions specialist 1-800-236-7524