Anorexia Nervosa


Defining Anorexia

Anorexia (also known as anorexia nervosa) is a common eating disorder associated with a distorted physical and psychological image of one’s body and an obsession with weight gain. People with anorexia have a constant, unhealthy preoccupation with food and weight, which is thought to be related more with self-control than with weight loss itself. Their lives revolve around food intake and view losing weight as a means of boosting self-esteem. However, it is short-lived and once the ego boost goes away, people find other means of working to change and try to fix their appearance.

While the demographic suffering from anorexia tends to lean towards women and teenage girls, men are likely to suffer from this disorder as well. Some other eating disorders are Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified.

Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Obsession with food
  • Overall thin appearance
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Soft hair encompassing the body
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Refusal to acknowledge hunger
  • Social withdrawal

Causes and Risk Factors

There are no specific known causes for anorexia. However, a combination of psychological and social factors is associated with higher risk for this eating disorder. These risk factors may include:

  • Perfectionism
  • Body dissatisfaction
  • Low self-esteem
  • Family history of eating disorders
  • Past history of sexual or physical abuse

People with anorexia ultimately have trouble with their own body image and look for ways to gain control, thereby turning to food and eating habits. Unfortunately, an unhealthy obsession can have long-term and potentially life threatening health risks, which may include:

  • Problems with mental health
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Anemia
  • Death


It is important for people to realize that the obsession is the problem. Treatment for anorexia has multiple components. Medical treatment may be necessary to treat severe side effects so that people suffering may return to a healthy weight. In some cases, hospitalization may be required. Nutritional counseling and treatment involves teaching one about healthy eating habits and proper nutrition. Counseling and therapy serves to ameliorate the personal and psychological issues which precipitated the disease.


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