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Posted by Eamonn Brady on


Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to


I noticed you previously discussed bulimia in the Westmeath Examiner. I am beginning to suspect my teenage daughter may be suffering from anorexia. Can you tell me what are the signs and symptoms? MD, Meath



The main psychological feature of anorexia nervosa is the extreme overvaluation of shape and weight. People with anorexia also have the determination to tolerate extreme hunger and self-imposed weight loss. Food restriction is only one aspect of the practices used to lose weight. Many people with anorexia use over-exercise and over-activity to burn calories. They often choose to stand rather than sit; generate opportunities to be physically active; and are drawn to sport, athletics, and dance. Purging practices include self-induced vomiting, together with misuse of laxatives, diuretics, and “slimming pills.” The practise of “body checking” is another feature of many anorexia sufferers; this involves repeated weighing, measuring, mirror gazing, and other obsessive behaviour as reassurance that they are still thin. Losing weight becomes an addiction and like any addiction the point of complete satisfaction (with one’s weight in the case of anorexia) is never attained. Eating becomes an “evil” thing in the eyes of the sufferer. In this way, it is not that dissimilar to other addictive or psychological type disorders such as alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction etc. Initially the person is able to lead a fairly normal life. It is often only in the end stages when the person becomes so physically and psychologically unwell that it is obvious there is a problem and the person can no longer lead a normal life.


It falls to family members and primary care services (eg. patient’s GP) to recognise and manage relapses as well as first episodes of the illness. General practitioners may need support from a specialist in eating disorders, and early referral for more detailed assessment and advice gives the person the message that their illness is of genuine concern.


Physical signs of malnutrition and purging apart from a low weight include thinning hair, swelling of the salivary glands which shows as a swollen face, enamel erosion, hypothermia, bradycardia, the growth of soft downy hair on face, back and arms, dry skin, low blood pressure, cold hands and blue or uneven colour in extremities such as hands or feet, insensitivity to pain, constipation, amenorrhoea (lack of periods in women) and shrunken breasts.



Bodywhys is a national voluntary organisation supporting people affected by eating disorders in Ireland. They provide support and education through volunteers as well as providing support and advice through their helpline as well as online support through their website ( For more help and information, you can lo-call Bodywhys at 1890 200 444 or e-mail


Upcoming Positive Mental Health Event

Whelehans Pharmacy in conjunction with Good2Talk Counselling Service are holding a positive Mental Health Event in the Greville Arms in October which is geared towards younger people. A number of experts in mental health will discuss problems faced by younger people and will aim to give practical tips and advice on how to cope with the challenges faced. Young people and their parents are welcome to attend. This will be of interest to schools and people working with young people on a daily basis. I will have more details in the Examiner in the coming weeks.


This article is shortened to fit within Newspaper space limits. More detailed information on anorexia can be obtained in Whelehans or at

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