what is Anorexia Nervosa-Detailed Discussion on Anorexia Nervosa

what is Anorexia Nervosa – Eating disorder

Food. Everyone loves food! We always have our favorite dish, dessert or snacks, etc. to look forward to. But, can you think of someone who doesn’t like food? The people, who are dieting, so they don’t like food or do they not allow themselves to have it? Have you ever thought, it is possible for a person to die, from starving even when the food is available for them?

There are thousands of people dying every year because of anorexia, an eating disorder, in which they have the obsession to control the amount of food they eat, even to the point of starving. It starts with losing weight but soon, they forget all their aims and only have one thing in their mind: fear. Fear to gain weight!

Anorexia Nervosa:

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder, in which the person has the intense fear of gaining weight(even though they are generally underweight)and obsession to control the amount of food they eat. They restrict their food intake to the point of starving and may purge, do excessive exercise or use laxatives to lose further weight. They see themselves as overweight, no matter how much weight they lose.

Types of Anorexia Nervosa:

  1. Restricting type: In restricting type, person strictly follows their rules of eating and limit their calories intake to lose weight. But, unfortunately, their calorie intake is far less than what is needed for a healthy person.
  2. Binge- eating- purging type: In this type, a person eats a large amount of food in short time (binge) and then purge it by self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise or use of laxatives, diuretics or enemas. They may purge after every binge eating.

 In both types, the anorexic successfully loses weight in a very short duration, which is very unhealthy for the body. They starve themselves, eat one meal a day and try purging even that one meal. Read here: Signs of Malnutrition

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Lose weight in a very short duration.
  • See themselves as overweight, even though they are underweight.
  • Highly conscious of calories or fat-containing food.
  • May refuse to eat in front of others.
  • Refuse to accept that they are underweight, even with their skeleton-like appearance.
  • May have bruise or cuts on their knuckles due to force vomiting.
  • May spit their food after chewing.
  • Loss or thinness of hair
  • Halitosis; bad breath due to continuous vomiting
  • Abnormal eating patterns
  • Eating rituals due to OCD, such as cutting food in small pieces or eating food in one colour.
  • Excessive exercise
  • Obsession with weight i.e. measuring weight 5 times a day.
  • Hiding food in their room but not eating.
  • Cooking grand meals for others but again not eating themselves
  • Being sensitive to cold i.e. cold hands or feet
  • Amenorrhea; irregular or lack of periods in females
  • Dry and yellowish skin
  • Feeling tired, all the time, due to lack of nutrition

Diagnostic criteria (DSM-V) for Anorexia Nervosa:

According to the Diagnostic criteria of Statistical Manual of Psychological Disorders, anorexia is:

  • Restriction to food intake and refusal to maintain ideal body weight, which is expected of a certain sex, age or height.
  • Intense fear of gaining weight, no matter how much weight they have lost.
  • Having distorted self-perception of oneself, as seeing themselves as someone overweight while being an underweight.

Dieting and Anorexia:

Many people confuse dieting with anorexia. But anorexia is far more hazardous and damaging than dieting. In dieting, people lose weight to look thin and once reached their goal, they may resume their previous eating habits or have the eating schedule of the one when they were dieting. But in anorexia nervosa, a person may start by dieting or their first goal may be losing weight, but no matter how much weight they lose its never enough for them.

No matter how thin they are, anorexics still think they are fat.

They would start from eating two meals a day and then move to one meal and then a cup of coffee or water instead of that one meal and they still feel like they are fat and they should stop eating.

Anorexia is more about behavior; the fear and obsession with losing weight and their distorted self-perception of themselves. 

Causes of Anorexia Nervosa:

It may be due to one factor or the combination of genetic, biological or environmental factors which are responsible for causing anorexia nervosa.

Genetic factor:

Research studies have shown that 50-80% genes play role in transferring anorexia from one generation to another. Though, further research is being done on genes and their involvement in causing anorexia.

Biological factor:

Chemical imbalance and hormonal changes in the body can also cause anorexia. And, biological factors combine with the environmental factors increase the risk of developing anorexia 5 times more as compared to the absence of biological factors.

Environmental factors:

Most anorexic is the perfectionist and likes being the one in control. When things don’t go their way in life, they start controlling the amount of food they eat. And when successful, it gives them a sense of accomplishment and the feeling of being one in control, when they restrict themselves to eat and follow their own rules of eating.


Exam stress, the death of loved one, losing a job or a big mishap in life, can also lead to anorexia. As the feeling of hunger and pain make them forget the pain of real life and helps them focus their mind on something else, which leads to anorexia, in many cases.


Media is playing a big role in causing anorexia in teenagers.Thin models and actors , make the youngster think that they are supposed to look like that. Moreover, many actors, models and athletes have fallen prey to anorexia themselves, as they obsess with their looks and people’ expectations of looking thin and perfect. 


Unfortunately, our society is also playing a major role in promoting anorexia. Asfor some reason, it is accepted that beauty is how thin you look. Smartness is not shown from your knowledge but from the thinness of your body. And, blindly following these standards of beauty, made by our own society, many youngsters have lost their lives through anorexia, as they force themselves to not to eat, to look thin, smart and beautiful, with the constant fear of being fat and getting rejected by society.

Peer pressure:

Isn’t it common to hear, “Wow! You look smart! Did you lose some weight?” Again, the standards made by society and promoted through media make people think losing weight is a good thing. And, no, I am not saying to get obese or fat but standard of beauty should be a healthy person of ideal weight required of his/her height and age. As friends telling you,how you will look good if you were a bit thin. Or being called fat or getting bullied by peers, these things doesn’t lead to smartness, it takes you to a disorder.

 If you think you need to lose weight, don’t ask yourself, ask a Nutritionist or a General Physician or you could just calculate yourBody Mass Index (BMI), with the help of google, by simply putting you age, weight and height. And, BMI of healthy person lies between 18 to 24.5, according to your age, gender and height.

After this, if you still think, you are overweight, get an appointment from Nutritionist and follow a valid diet pattern. And, it is not a waste of money to go to dietician if you want to lose weight as it is not waste of money, if you get yourself check for cancer. As both are equally life threatening.

Low self-esteem:

Most anorexics have low self-esteem, which make them an easy target to follow society or media’ ideas of beauty, which includes thinness. And their low self-esteem, fuels the idea of losing weight to the point of skeleton like appearance.

Effects of Anorexia Nervosa:

Anorexia nervosa doesn’t only effect the body of a person, but also their mind. It destroys the physical as well as mental health of a person.

Medical effects:

  • Cardiac issues such as heart failure.
  • Kidney failure
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Low blood count
  • Constipation
  • Osteoporosis; weak bones
  • Growth retardation
  • Hypotension; less than 90/50 blood pressure
  • Rickets

Psychological effects:

 Anorexics are much more likely to develop Depression, anxiety, mood disorders as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD), as it is seen in most of anorexia patients. Drug abuse is also common in anorexia patients.

Anorexia Nervosa Facts:

  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate than any other psychological disorder.
  • Anorexic deaths are from suicide, starving, malnourished body and medical problems caused by anorexia and drug abuse.
  • Males are as much likely to develop anorexia or any other eating disorder as females.

Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa:

Anorexia is a life threatening disorder, so it is better to see a doctor, as soon as possible.

A general physician, a psychologist and a nutritionist, usually work in a team to treat anorexia.

  • GeneralPhysician:

As, Physician, helps identify that starving is not caused by any other physical illness as well as he helps treat medical problems caused by anorexia such as kidney or heart problems, etc.

  • Nutritionist:

Nutritionist helps restore the health of anorexic patient with a valid diet pattern, as it is not possible to start feeding normal diet to anorexic suddenly. They have the high chances of developing refeeding syndrome, which is dangerous for their life.

Read here: How to Gain Weight Naturally

  • Psychologist:

Psychologist helps anorexic with their fear, obsession and distorted self-perception of themselves. The most difficult thing is to make anorexic realize that they are at the brink of their death and their problems isn’t going to solve if they stop eating. The thing they need to control is their thoughts, not their calories.

It is not impossible to recover from anorexia, as many people are living a healthy life after getting treated. I hope, I have answered the question: what is Anorexia Nervosa? After reading this detailed article, you will find all the answers which you were looking for Anorexia Nervosa.

About Author:

My name is Aisha Aslam and I am a student of Psychology in Pakistan. I want to tell you, mental illness, is nothing bad. It is just an illness, pain and suffering. No need to live with it silently, for the rest of your life. Get it treated and live a successful life. You don’t know how many things you are missing, just because you are living with this pain for 24 hoursNapoleon said:

 “World is suffering a lot, not because of violence of bad people but because of the silence of good people.”

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