Atypical Anorexia: What You Need to Know About the Rare Eating Disorder

Did you know that there is a rare form of anorexia nervosa? This form of anorexia is known as atypical anorexia, and it can be very difficult to diagnose. In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms and treatment options for atypical anorexia. We will also provide advice for family members and friends who are trying to help someone with this disorder.

Defining Atypical Anorexia

Atypical anorexia is a subtype of anorexia nervosa. It is characterized by all of the same symptoms as anorexia nervosa, but with one key difference: people with atypical anorexia do not fit the typical body type associated with the disorder. In other words, they are not underweight.

This can make atypical anorexia very difficult to diagnose, as many doctors and mental health professionals only look for signs of weight loss when trying to identify an eating disorder. As a result, people with atypical anorexia often go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed with another condition, such as bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder.

Difference Between Anorexia And Atypical Anorexia

There are a few key differences between anorexia and atypical anorexia.

  • First, as we mentioned, people with atypical anorexia are not underweight.
  • Second, people with atypical anorexia often have a higher body mass index (BMI) than those with anorexia.
  • Third, people with atypical anorexia tend to be more emotionally unstable and may have difficulty controlling their emotions.
  • Finally, people with atypical anorexia are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than those with anorexia.

There is very little research on atypical anorexia, as it is such a rare disorder.

Facts About Atypical Anorexia

atypical anorexia facts

Atypical anorexia is a very serious disorder, but there are some things you can do to help someone who is struggling. Here are a few facts about atypical anorexia that you should know:

  • Atypical anorexia is a serious, potentially life-threatening disorder.
  • Atypical anorexia is a rare form of anorexia nervosa, affecting only 1-2% of the population
  • It shares all of the same symptoms as regular anorexia nervosa.
  • People with atypical anorexia are not underweight.
  • People with atypical anorexia often have a higher body mass index (BMI) than those with anorexia.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the symptoms of atypical anorexia, it is important to seek professional help. Left untreated, atypical anorexia can lead to serious health complications.


Atypical anorexia shares all of the same symptoms as regular anorexia nervosa. These include:

  • An intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
  • A dominant preoccupation with food, weight, and body image
  • Distorted body image
  • Preoccupation with food and dieting
  • Extremely restrictive eating behaviors
  • Excessive exercise
  • Intolerance to cold temperatures
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Avoiding social situations where food is present

If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is important to seek professional help. Left untreated, anorexia nervosa can lead to serious health complications, including heart failure, organ damage, and even death.


The exact cause of atypical anorexia is unknown, but there are several potential risk factors. These include:

  • Family history of eating disorders: People with a family history of eating disorders are more likely to develop one themselves.
  • Genetic predisposition: Some people may be genetically predisposed to developing atypical anorexia.
  • Psychological factors: People with atypical anorexia may have difficulty coping with negative emotions, such as anxiety or depression. They may turn to food restriction as a way to cope with these emotions.
  • Trauma: People who have experienced trauma, such as sexual abuse or the death of a loved one, may be more likely to develop atypical anorexia.
  • History of dieting or weight cycling: People who have a history of dieting or weight cycling are more likely to develop anorexia.
  • Perfectionism: People who are perfectionists tend to be more critical of themselves and their bodies. This can lead to developing atypical anorexia.
  • Low self-esteem: People with atypical anorexia often have low self-esteem. This can be a result of their distorted body image or their perfectionism.
  • Unrealistic beauty standards in the media: The media often portrays an unrealistic standard of beauty, which can lead to body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem.

There is no single cause of atypical anorexia. Rather, it is thought to be a result of one or a combination of the above factors.

Effects On Daily Life

atypical anorexia effects

Atypical anorexia can have a significant impact on your daily life. Here are some of the ways it can affect you:

  • Relationships: It can strain your relationships. You may become withdrawn and isolate yourself from your friends and family. Your eating habits may also cause conflict with your loved ones.
  • Work or school performance: Eating disorders can interfere with your work or school performance. You may have difficulty concentrating or keeping up with your work.
  • Social life: It can also impact your social life. You may avoid social situations where food is present, such as parties or meals out with friends.

In addition, severe and unmonitored eating disorders can also have life threatening effects on one’s mental and physical health. This includes vulnerability to disorders such as:

  • Anemia: Anorexia can cause anemia, which is a condition characterized by low levels of iron in the blood.
  • Anxiety: People with anorexia often experience anxiety, which can be caused by the fear of gaining weight or the need to control food intake.
  • Bone loss: It  can also cause bone loss and osteoporosis. This is because the disorder causes your body to break down muscle for energy, which can lead to bone loss.
  • Cardiovascular problems: Anorexia can lead to cardiovascular problems, such as irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure.
  • Depression: People with anorexia are at a higher risk for depression. This may be due to the negative effects of the disorder on mood and body image.
  • Digestive problems: Anorexia can cause digestive problems, such as constipation and bloating.
  • Electrolyte imbalance: Anorexia can cause an electrolyte imbalance, which can lead to problems such as muscle weakness and heart arrhythmias.
  • Fatigue: Anorexia can cause fatigue due to the lack of nutrients in the body.
  • Hair loss: Anorexia can cause hair loss due to the lack of nutrients in the body.
  • Insomnia: People with anorexia often have difficulty sleeping. This may be due to anxiety or the need to stay awake to exercise or restrict food intake.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles: Anorexia can disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle, causing irregular periods or amenorrhea (absence of periods).
  • Kidney damage: Anorexia can cause kidney damage due to the lack of nutrients in the body.
  • Loss of bone density: Anorexia can cause loss of bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis.
  • Malnutrition: Anorexia can cause malnutrition due to the lack of nutrients in the body.
  • Muscle weakness: Anorexia can cause muscle weakness due to the lack of nutrients in the body.
  • Suicidal ideation: People with anorexia are at a higher risk for suicidal ideation due to the negative effects of the disorder on mood and body image.

If you or someone you know is displaying signs of atypical anorexia, it’s important to seek professional help. It is a serious disorder with potentially life-threatening consequences. Early intervention and treatment can help prevent these complications and improve the outlook for recovery.

Treatment Options

There is no one “right” way to treat atypical anorexia. The best course of action will be different for each person.

That said, there are a few general treatment options that are often used to treat this disorder. These include:


This is a type of therapy that can help people with atypical anorexia learn how to cope with their emotions and thoughts in a healthy way. Some of the most effective therapy approaches for eating disorders include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This is a type of therapy that focuses on helping people change their negative thinking patterns. CBT has been shown to be particularly effective in treating eating disorders.
  • Family-based therapy (FBT): This is a type of therapy that involves the whole family in the treatment process. FBT can help families learn how to support their loved ones while also respecting their autonomy.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT is a type of therapy that helps people manage their emotions. DBT has been shown to be effective in treating atypical anorexia.
  • Group therapy: This is a type of therapy that involves meeting with other people who have atypical anorexia. Group therapy can provide support and allow people to share their experiences.

Medical Treatments

In some cases, people with atypical anorexia may need medical treatment. This is often necessary if someone has a low body weight or is experiencing serious health complications. Medical treatments can include:

  • Nutritional counseling: A registered dietitian can help people with anorexia related eating disorders and develop a healthy relationship with food. They can also provide guidance on how to get the nutrients your body needs.
  • Medications: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help treat this disorder. These can include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers.
  • Hospitalization: If someone with atypical anorexia is severely malnourished or is at risk for medical complications, they may need to be hospitalized. This will allow them to receive close supervision and treatment.

It is very important to get a doctor’s consultation before undergoing any of these treatments.

Self Coping Strategies

Self Coping Strategies

There are also a few things that you can do to help cope with atypical anorexia on your own. Here are a few self-coping strategies:

  • Identify your triggers: What situations or emotions trigger your disordered eating? Once you know what these triggers are, you can try to avoid them or be prepared for them ahead of time.
  • Maintain a food diary: Keeping a food diary can help you become more aware of your eating habits. It can also help you identify patterns or triggers that you may not have been aware of before.
  • Take small steps: Trying to make big changes all at once can be overwhelming. Instead, focus on taking small steps each day to improve your relationship with food and your body. You can do so by eating regular meals, practicing mindful eating, and choosing foods that you enjoy.
  • Challenge your negative thoughts: When you have negative thoughts about yourself or your body, try to counter them with positive ones. For example, if you think “I’m so fat,” try to remind yourself “I am healthy and my weight is normal.”
  • Focus on self-care: Make sure to takej time for yourself to do things that make you happy. This can include taking a relaxing bath, reading your favorite book, or going for a walk in nature.
  • Find a support system: Talking to friends or family members who are supportive can be helpful. There are also many online and offline support groups available.

Recovery from atypical anorexia is possible. With treatment and self-care, you can learn to manage your disorder and live a fulfilling life.If you think you may be struggling, please reach out to a doctor or mental health professional for help.


Atypical anorexia is a rare but serious eating disorder that can be difficult to overcome. However, with treatment and self-care, recovery is possible. It often requires a team of professionals, including therapists, dietitians, and doctors. It’s important to remember that recovery is possible. With treatment, people  can learn to manage their disorder and live happy, healthy lives.

At Mantra Care, you can find mental health professionals who specialize in treatment and guidance for eating disorders or any other mental health concerns one might face. We can help you develop a treatment plan that meets your unique needs. Our sessions are available from all across the world at affordable rates with the promise of the safest and most effective guidance. Reach out to us to book a session or you can also download our free Android or iOS app.

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