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Anorexia - What will happen to me?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If you or someone close to you has anorexia, you are probably wondering what may happen and if it's possible to recover.

The good news is that many people get over anorexia. But it's hard work, and it can take many months or even years.

You're much more likely to recover if you get professional help. To read more, see What treatments work for anorexia?

It's very hard to say exactly what will happen to you as an individual. Anorexia is a personal thing. Here are some of the ways it's different for different people.[28]

  • Your anorexia may only last a few months, and then you can completely recover.

  • Your anorexia may come and go. You may gain weight for a while, only to lose it again later.

  • You may develop anorexia gradually, and it may stay with you for many years.

  • You may get worse quickly, with the illness becoming very serious. You can die from anorexia.

Here's what we know about anorexia from research studies.

  • About half of all people with anorexia recover.[5][30] This means they're able to stay at a healthy weight for their age and height, and, if they're female, their periods start again.

  • But it's hard to recover from the other symptoms of anorexia. About two-thirds of people who've had anorexia never stop worrying about food and their weight. About 40 in 100 people who have had anorexia still binge on food and make themselves throw up from time to time.[5]

  • With time and treatment, you can understand and control the thoughts and feelings that go along with anorexia. This might mean you feel less guilty or feel happier with your body.

  • About 20 in 100 people who have anorexia don't get better. They stay underweight and their other symptoms don't get better either.[5][30]

  • Recovery takes time. About three-quarters of people with eating disorders say they've been ill for between one and 15 years.[31]

  • People with anorexia are more likely to be depressed than people who don't have anorexia.[32]

  • Some people die from anorexia. Each year, about 1 in 100 people who have this illness die from it.[5]

You have more chance of getting better if:[5]

  • You are not severely underweight

  • You are young and have only had anorexia for a short while

  • You get treated soon after the anorexia starts

  • Treatment for anorexia has worked for you before

  • You have a good relationship with your family

  • You don't make yourself throw up.

Starving your body of food can be very harmful, especially if you've been doing it for a long time. See What anorexia can do to your body for more about this.

Making yourself sick or taking laxatives to try to control your weight can be very harmful too. For more information, see Problems caused by purging.


For references related to Anorexia click here.
Last Updated: September 19, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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