Anorexia nervosa, usually just called anorexia, is a serious eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Individuals with this mental health disorder harbor an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. They are highly concerned with body shape and size and might see themselves as overweight even when they are medically underweight.

People with anorexia nervosa rigorously restrict their food intake, exercise excessively, or may use other methods (such as purging or using laxatives) to lose weight. The condition can have severe health consequences, affecting nearly every organ system in the body. It can even be life-threatening. Treatment typically involves a combination of nutritional therapy, psychotherapy, and sometimes medications.

Anorexia nervosa

Causes of Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. The specific cause or causes of anorexia nervosa are unknown, but they are likely to involve a mix of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

1. Genetic Factors: Individuals may be genetically predisposed to have anorexia nervosa. This means that the disorder may be more likely to occur in people who have family members with the condition or other eating disorders.

2. Biological Factors: Some evidence suggests that anorexia nervosa might be related to hormonal or chemical imbalances in the brain, though further research is needed to confirm this. Additionally, people with anorexia often have a disturbed sense of their body size and shape, an issue that seems to stem from the brain’s processing of body-related information.

3. Psychological Factors: People with anorexia nervosa often have certain psychological traits, such as perfectionism, anxiety, and a sense of lack of control. In some individuals, the extreme dieting behaviors may be a way of coping with emotional distress or a way of achieving a sense of control over their lives.

4. Environmental Factors: Social and cultural pressures can contribute to the development of anorexia nervosa. For instance, the societal emphasis on thinness and beauty may play a role in encouraging dieting and dissatisfaction with one’s body, which may then escalate into full-blown anorexia in some individuals.

It’s important to note that anorexia nervosa is a serious mental health disorder that requires professional treatment. If left untreated, it can lead to severe health consequences, including death.

Risk Factors of Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. The exact cause of anorexia nervosa isn’t known, but a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors may contribute to its development. Some risk factors of anorexia nervosa include:

1. Genetics: People with a first-degree relative — a parent, sibling or child — who had the disorder have a higher risk.

2. Age: Although it can occur at any age, anorexia is most common among teenagers and young adults.

3. Gender: Women are significantly more likely to develop anorexia than men. However, men are also at risk.

4. Societal pressures: Current societal ideals of thinness, beauty, and body size may also influence the development of the disorder.

5. Perfectionism: Many people with anorexia are perfectionists and overachievers. They may feel unable to measure up to expectations or manage the stresses of life, using weight loss as a method of regaining control.

6. Mental health disorders: People with conditions like depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to have anorexia.

7. Occupations or hobbies: Certain activities and professions that promote thinness, such as ballet, modeling, or gymnastics, could increase the risk.

8. Early dieting: Dieting at a young age can be a risk factor for developing anorexia later on.

9. Emotional trauma or stress: Events such as sexual assault, bullying, or a major life change may trigger anorexia.

Each of these can play a role in the development of anorexia, but having these risk factors doesn’t mean an individual will get anorexia. Mental and physical health is complex and individual, and eating disorders are no exception.

Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and a severe, persistent behavior to prevent weight gain. The most notable sign of anorexia nervosa is a significant weight loss or failure to gain weight when growth is expected. However, the symptoms can be multiple and varied:

Physical signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa may include:

1. Extreme thinness (emaciation)
2. An intense fear of gaining weight
3. Distorted body image, self-esteem overly related to body shape and weight
4. A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight
5. Infrequent or absent menstrual periods in females
6. Constipation or other gastrointestinal complaints
7. Dry or yellowish skin
8. Intolerance of cold
9. Irregular heart rhythms
10. Low blood pressure
11. Dehydration
12. Swelling in the arms or legs
13. Stunted growth in adolescents
14. Thinning hair or hair loss
15. Insomnia
16. Fatigue

Behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms may include:

1. Restriction of food intake leading to significantly low body weight
2. Persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of the current low body weight
3. Heavy emphasis on dieting and eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or refusing to eat around others
4. Obsession with food, dieting, and body size
5. Extreme physical activity
6. Dresses in layers to hide weight loss or stay warm
7. Withdraws from social activities, especially meals and celebrations involving food.

Please note that it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional if you or someone you know is displaying symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa. This disorder requires professional help and it can lead to severe health issues if left untreated.

Diagnosis Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, often referred to as anorexia, is a serious eating disorder characterized by a self-imposed starvation and excessive weight loss. It is a psychological condition where the individual has an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight, even when they are underweight.

Signs and symptoms can be physical, psychological and behavioral. Physical signs may include thin appearance, fatigue, insensitivity to cold, irregular heart rhythms, and more. Psychological and behavioral signs can be such as fear of weight gain, distorted body image, dieting despite being thin, denial of hunger, and more.

The exact cause of anorexia nervosa is not known. As with many diseases, it’s likely a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. For example, genetic factors may make some people more likely to develop anorexia. Certain personality traits, such as perfectionism or high levels of anxiety, might also contribute.

Diagnosis of anorexia nervosa is typically made through a combination of physical examination, psychological evaluation, and discussing eating habits. Diagnostic criteria as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) include restricting food intake leading to lower than expected body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, disturbed self-perception of body weight or shape, among others.

Treatment focuses on restoring a healthy weight, treating the psychological issues related to the eating disorder, reducing behaviors or thoughts that lead to insufficient eating and preventing relapse. This often involves a multi-pronged approach, with the help of doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, dieticians and family members. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve the chances of recovery.

Treatment of Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a severe eating disorder that requires a comprehensive treatment approach due to the complex nature of the disease, which often entails physical, psychological, and social components. Here is a generalized overview of how it might be treated:

1. Medical Treatment: Anorexia can have severe health complications like heart problems, low blood pressure, loss of bone density. Thus, medical treatment that focuses on resolving or limiting these health issues may be necessary. This may involve regular health check-ups and treatments under the supervision of a medical doctor.

2. Psychotherapy: The psychological part of anorexia is usually addressed via therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) tends to be commonly used in this context. CBT helps individuals understand the unhelpful patterns of thinking that lead to disordered eating, and then targets these thoughts and behaviors to replace them with healthier ones.

3. Nutritional Counseling: A dietitian or nutritionist may play a significant role in treatment. They can help develop personalized meal plans, educate about healthy eating, and assist in setting and achieving reasonable weight goals.

4. Medication: While there’s no specific drug to cure anorexia, medications are sometimes used to help manage symptoms of co-occurring disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

5. Family-based Treatment: Particularly in adolescents, involving the family can be extremely beneficial. The family can provide support and ensure a healthier eating environment.

6. Hospitalization: In some severe cases, where there’s a high risk of serious health problems, hospitalization may be required.

7. Support Groups: Though not a replacement for professional treatment, support groups can be a useful adjunct by providing understanding, encouragement and shared coping strategies.

Each person’s journey to recovery from anorexia is unique and can require a different blend of these treatments. Importantly, anyone dealing with this disorder should obtain support from a team of professionals with expertise in eating disorders. They can provide the needed ongoing, personalized care, and support towards recovery.

Remember, if you or someone else is dealing with anorexia, it’s important to seek help from a medical professional. The information provided here should not replace professional advice.

Medications commonly used for Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is primarily treated through various forms of psychotherapy, but medications can also be used to manage symptoms or coexisting problems like depression or anxiety. Here are some of them:

1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These are often used to help manage anxiety and depressive symptoms that can be associated with anorexia. Examples include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), and Citalopram (Celexa) among others.

2. Atypical Antipsychotics: These are sometimes used in the treatment of anorexia nervosa to help with certain psychological symptoms. Olanzapine (Zyprexa) is often used, which may help with obsessive thoughts about food and anxiety, and possibly promote weight gain.

3. Antidepressants: Antidepressants like bupropion (Wellbutrin) are often used alongside psychotherapy. Although they’re not typically used to treat anorexia itself, they can be helpful for treating coexisting conditions like major depressive disorder or anxiety.

4. Mood stabilizers: In some cases, mood stabilizers like lithium or anti-epileptics (lamotrigine, valproate) are used to treat bipolar disorder that often coexists with anorexia.

5. Antianxiety medications: Drugs like benzodiazepines can be used to manage symptoms of anxiety and agitation that can occur alongside anorexia.

Remember, everyone’s different, and a medication that works well for one person might not work as well for another. The use of medication should be tailored to the individual’s needs and under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Adding medication to a treatment plan will be decided on a case by case basis, considering factors like the severity of symptoms, previous treatments, and the presence of any other mental or physical health problems.

Prevention of Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental health disorder characterized by an irrational fear of gaining weight and extreme dieting to the point of severe weight loss. Preventing anorexia nervosa involves a complex combination of educating, promoting a healthy body image, and providing early intervention. Here are some prevention strategies:

1. Promote Healthy Eating Habits: Encourage a healthy, balanced diet to meet nutritional needs. Teach children the importance of eating various types of food and that dieting can be harmful.

Anorexia nervosa

2. Encourage Positive Body Image: Promote a healthier self-esteem and body image by challenging negative stereotypes around beauty and weight. Encourage self-respect and a positive attitude towards different body sizes and shapes.

3. Early Detection and Intervention: Teachers, parents, and medical professionals should be aware of the early signs of anorexia, such as drastic weight loss, obsession with dieting, or exercising excessively. Early intervention can help prevent the progression of the disease.

4. School-based Programs: Schools can play a crucial role in prevention by offering programs that promote a healthy body image, good nutrition, and regular exercise.

5. Open Communication: Make sure individuals feel comfortable discussing their concerns about body image, food, dieting, and weight. Encourage them to speak openly with family, friends, or a counselor if they are feeling pressure about these issues.

6. Education: Provide education about the dangers of dieting and the importance of eating a variety of healthy foods. This can also include awareness of the negative body images and unrealistic ideals often portrayed in the media.

7. Mental Health Awareness: Promote the importance of mental health. Emotional wellbeing can impact attitudes towards food and body image. Providing healthy coping mechanisms for stress can also be beneficial.

8. Family Therapy: In some cases, involving the entire family in treatment can help, especially for younger patients, by enabling the family to reinforce healthy eating habits.

Preventing anorexia nervosa is difficult, as it is linked to a multitude of factors, including genetic, environmental, and personal elements. However, by implementing these strategies, you can potentially deter the onset or progression of this disorder. It’s also important to consult with healthcare professionals when concerned about yourself or someone else.

FAQ’s about Anorexia nervosa

1. What is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an irrational or intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body self-perception. It results in self-imposed starvation and excessive weight loss.

2. What causes Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia Nervosa is a complex condition that arises from a combination of many social, emotional, and biological factors. Despite common beliefs, it is not simply vanity or a lifestyle choice.

3. What are the symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa?
Symptoms can include extreme thinness, an intense fear of gaining weight, a distorted body image, lack of menstruation among girls and women, and extremely restrictive eating.

4. Who is most at risk of Anorexia Nervosa?
Usually, it tends to more commonly affect females and often starts during adolescence. However, people of any gender and age can develop this disorder.

5. What are the health impacts of Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia can cause severe health problems, such as heart conditions, kidney failure, osteoporosis, and in severe cases, death. It also affects mental and emotional health, leading to depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.

6. Can Anorexia Nervosa be cured?
Yes, while treatment can be a tough and long process, many people with anorexia nervosa can be helped with professional help and a strong support network.

7. What does treatment for Anorexia Nervosa involve?
Treatment often includes a combination of medical, nutritional, and psychological therapies. For teenagers, family-based therapy (where parents take responsibility for feeding their child) is often recommended.

8. How is Anorexia Nervosa diagnosed?
Diagnosis involves a medical evaluation, including medical tests to rule out other causes of weight loss, a psychological evaluation, and an assessment of symptoms present.

9. Are there any support groups for people with Anorexia Nervosa?
Yes, there are many support groups both online and offline, which help people suffering from anorexia nervosa. Consulting a health care provider can provide more tailored information.

10. How can I help someone suffering from Anorexia Nervosa?
You can support them by encouraging them to seek professional help, being understanding about their fears regarding weight gain, and providing a supportive environment. Patience and understanding are the keys, as recovery can be long and difficult.

Useful links

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight, a distorted body image, and self-imposed starvation leading to excessive weight loss. It typically involves self-esteem being overly tied to body image.

The following are some useful journals on Anorexia Nervosa:


Pleas note that it is necessary to have access to these journals to view the complete text and resources. Access can typically be gained through academic libraries or through direct subscription to the journal.

Before making any decisions based on these resources, please consult a healthcare/psychiatric professional as these findings were meant for clinical and academic contexts.

Complications of Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that can have many potential complications, affecting nearly every part of the body. They include:

1. Physical Complications: These are usually due to malnutrition from severe under-eating.

Cardiovascular complications, such as low blood pressure, slowing heart rate, heart failure, and other heart-related issues.

Bone loss (osteoporosis), which can lead to easy fractures.

Gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, and in severe cases, gastroparesis.

Kidney damage or failure due to dehydration.

Endocrine complications, such as irregular menstruation in females or low testosterone in males, and problems related to the thyroid and adrenal glands.

Immune system weakened leading to frequent infections.

2. Psychological Complications:

Mood disorders such as major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders are common among people with anorexia.

Risk of suicide also greatly increases among those struggling with this disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive symptomatology: Many individuals with anorexia are obsessed with food and their body size, and may engage in compulsive behaviors related to food and exercise.

3. Social Complications: These can result from the impact of an eating disorder on someone’s life and relationships.

Isolation and withdrawal from friends and family

Poor academic or work performance

Strained relationships as a result of the disorder

According to the Mayo Clinic, severe complications could even lead to death, making this a potentially life-threatening condition. It’s crucial that anyone suffering from anorexia nervosa receive immediate medical attention, followed by psychological and nutritional counseling and support. Treatment has shown to be very effective in controlling and curing this disorder.

Home remedies of Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a serious psychological disorder that is often associated with a distorted body image and an intense fear of gaining weight. Individuals with anorexia nervosa tend to restrict their food intake, resulting in extreme thinness and potential health issues. While it is essential to seek professional medical treatment for anorexia nervosa, some supportive measures can be taken at home, but they are not a replacement for professional help. Prior to implementing home strategies, always confer with a healthcare provider.

1. Healthy Diet: It is important to gradually reintroduce a balanced diet with proper nutrients. Educate the person about healthy body weight and the importance of a wholesome diet.

2. Regular Exercise (Within Limits): Some regular exercise can help to improve mood and promote a healthier relationship with one’s body. It should be approached carefully, as over-exercise can be a symptom of anorexia.

3. Support Groups: Joining a local or online support group can provide comfort, reduce feelings of isolation, and promote sharing of coping strategies.

4. Stress Management Strategies: Techniques such as deep-breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and other relaxation strategies can help manage stress and anxiety that may trigger unhealthy eating behaviors.

5. Open Communication: Encourage open, non-judgmental conversations about food, body image, and emotions. Expressing empathy, understanding, and support can ease the person’s feelings of fear and anxiety.

Remember, this is an incredibly complex disorder that requires a combination of psychological therapy, nutritional counseling, and medical management. Home remedies complement, and do not replace, evidence-based treatments provided by a team of professionals.

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Mental Health,

Last Update: January 12, 2024