Anorexia Nervosa: Symptoms and Causes

Anorexia Nervosa: Symptoms and Causes

Anorexia nervosa(AN), which is interchangeably known as anorexia, is an eating disorder marked by bizarre low weight, food control, fear of gaining extra weight, and an overwhelming desire to be thin. People suffering from this eating disorder generally suffer from an excessively low body weight relative to their height and body type. It usually appears during a person’s teenage years or early adulthood, but it sometimes begins in the juvenile years. Anorexia patients see themselves as overweight despite being underweight. A person with this abnormality will deliberately reduce their food intake to help them manage these emotional challenges. This repeatedly involves a fear of gaining weight or craving to lose weight. 

Furthermore, unhealthy dietary control can lead to nutritional deficiencies, which can acutely affect overall health and likely life-threatening complications. Generally, anorexia is not really about food. Instead, it’s an extremely delicate and sometimes life-threatening way to try to cope with emotional problems. When you have anorexia, you mostly relate thinness with self-worth. There are lots of fantasy fiction about eating disorders. These can lead to untrue assumptions and affect a person’s chances of pursuing and seeking assistance. 

In addition, people mostly associate anorexia nervosa with females, but it can affect people of any gender. The BMI (Body Mass Index) is an apparatus that experts often use to check the body weight of an individual struggling with an eating disorder. Also, observations of eating patterns, exercise, and personality traits can sometimes signal an anorexic diagnosis.  

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

The main sign/symptom is significant weight loss or low body weight. Anorexia nervosa and the related malnutrition that results from self-imposed starvation can cause problems in every major organ system in the body. Physical signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

  •  Extreme weight loss 
  •  Chronic restrictive eating or dieting beyond normal
  • Avoidance of social functions, family, and friends.
  • Development of lanugo: soft, fine hair growing on the face and body.
  •  Amenorrhea: an irregular absence of menstruation or loss of 3 consecutive menstrual cycles. The hair also becomes brittle and turns yellow and unhealthy.
  • Engaging in ritualistic eating patterns like cutting food into pieces, eating alone, and/or hiding food.
  •  An obsession with counting calories and checking the fat contents of food.
  •  Purging: using laxatives, diet pills, ipecac syrup, or water pills to remove food out of their system after eating.
  •  Rapid mood swing
  • Depression, anxiety disorders, and insomnia.

Causes of Anorexia Nervosa

The exact cause of anorexia is unidentified. But, as with many diseases, it’s likely a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental influence.


 Anorexia nervosa is linked to genetics and is highly heritable. Genetics and hormones may have an effect on the development of anorexia nervosa. 


Environmental factors such as pressure from society to look thin may also add to the development of anorexia nervosa. Quixotic body images from media like magazines and television can significantly influence young people to obsessively desire to be thin.


People with anorexia nervosa are generally highly perfectionistic and mostly have obsessive-compulsive passionate traits, which may promote sticking to a restricted diet. In addition, it has been proven that anorexic victims are adamant in their thought patterns and attach high importance to being thin.

Gastrointestinal diseases

People suffering from gastrointestinal disorders can be more at risk of developing eating disorders than other people. For some, anorexia nervosa develops as a way of having control over an aspect of their life. 

Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa

There is no compelling evidence that any particular treatment for anorexia nervosa works better than others. However, there is adequate confirmation to suggest that early intervention and treatment are more effective. Therefore, seeking anorexia recovery assistance from a qualified team of eating disorder specialists, therapists, medical practitioners, and nutritionists is highly recommended. 

  • Medication: The best and effective order in the treatment of anorexia nervosa is addressing any severe health issues that may have resulted from the dietary disordered behaviors, such as malnutrition, amenorrhea, etc
  • Nutrition: Diet is the most crucial factor to work on in people with anorexia nervosa, and it must be tailored to meet the person’s needs.
  • Therapy: This part of the treatment intends to observe underlying issues related to the eating disorder. Hospital admission is an overall effective treatment for Anorexia nervosa.

The psychological and emotional challenges of this disorder can be challenging for a person to overcome. Therapies include counseling, nutritional/dietary advice, and medical care.

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