Basics of Anorexia Nervosa

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K. on April 4, 2021.

What Is Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that may lead to death. Anorexics eat very limited amounts of calories, which leads to malnutrition. They will eventually become dangerously lean and malnourished, but occasionally still consider themselves to be overweight. Anorexics also become malnourished to the point of needing hospitalisation. Even then, they deny that they have any problems.

Anorexia is more common during adolescence. Anorexia affects nine out of ten women, and approximately 1% of females between the ages of 10 and 25 are anorexic. Anorexia is a condition in which an individual severely restricts their food consumption, resulting in significantly low body weight, as well as an acute fear of increasing weight and an unhealthy obsession for body weight or appearance.

There are two main forms of anorexia: One form has been attributed to bulimia, a category of eating disorder characterised by “bingeing and purging," in which an individual eats and then vomits. The other subtype is characterised by extreme calorie and nutrient restriction.

Anorexia causes an individual to become obsessed about food and weight. They can form unusual eating habits, such as avoiding to eat in front of others or arranging food on the plate in a specific manner. Often individuals with anorexia seem to be obsessed with food. They can accumulate cookbooks and prepare scrumptious meals for their friends and relatives, but they refuse to eat alongside them. They also engage in a rigorous fitness regime.

What Causes Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa’s exact causes remain unclear. However, eating disorders may exist in families, and young women who have a parent or sibling with one are more likely to develop one themselves.

There are also psychological, environmental, and social influences that can play a role in anorexia’s growth. Anorexics begin to think that if they were thinner, their lives would be happier. Perfectionists and overachievers are common characteristics of these individuals. Anorexics are mostly successful students and participate in school and group activities. Anorexia, according to certain psychologists, is a subconscious effort to fix unresolved issues or traumatic childhood memories. Despite the reality that sexual assault has been linked to the development of bulimia, it has not been linked to the development of anorexia.


Referenced on 2.3.2021:

  1. Hales, R., and Yudofsky, S. (editors), Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry, 4th edition, American Psychiatric Publishing, 2003.
  2. Brewerton, T., Clinical Handbook of Eating Disorders: An Integrated Approach – Edition 1, Marcel Dekker, Inc, 2004.
  3. Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders website.

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