Anorexia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Mind It
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Anorexia nervosa can be defined as an eating disorder that is psychologically inclined and is considered life-threatening. It is characterised by an extremely low body weight and a strong fear of gaining weight.

Those suffering from anorexia may lose out on essential nutrients like sodium, potassium and calcium needed to make the body function normally, resulting in a very serious health condition.

According to Mayo Clinic, people suffering from anorexia place a high worth on regulating their weight and shape. In order to prevent weight gain, people with anorexia usually put much restriction on the amount of food they eat.

They also engage in excessive exercises in a bid to losing weight. Anorexia is more prevalent among teenagers but people of any age can suffer from this eating condition.


Teenagers are at a higher risk because of all the changes their body experiences during puberty. Increased peer pressure can heighten sensitivity to criticism about weight or body shape in teens. Dieting in attempt to control weight gain is different from anorexia.

Anorexia: Causes

The exact cause of anorexia is still unknown. According to Mayo Clinic, Anorexia may be a combined result of biological, psychological, interpersonal or environmental factors.

  • Biological: It is still being heavily researched which gene triggers anorexia. However, certain gene changes can lead to higher risk of anorexia. Individuals who have relatives who have anorexia or who might have suffered from anorexia in the past are also at higher risk.

  • Psychological: Psychological factors that contribute to anorexia include low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, anger, loneliness, etc

  • Environmental: Social factors that contribute to anorexia include cultural pressure that emphasizes thinness and constantly reinforces the idea of being thin and having the 'perfect body' as an ideal stereotype.

Anorexia: Symptoms 

According to the UK NHS, there are various symptoms of anorexia but people suffering from this condition are more likely to focus on losing weight and maintaining a weight that may be too low for their height or health. Physical symptoms include:

  • Unusually low Body Mass Index

  • Late menopause

  • Dehydration

  • Menstrual Irregularities

  • muscle weakness

  • dry and brittle nails

  • Bloating

  • Constipation

  • Abdominal pain

  • Irregular sleep pattern

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Dry Skin

  • Hair Loss

According to Mayo Clinic, emotional or behavioral symptoms include:

  • Strict dieting or fasting

  • Excessive exercise

  • Self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, medicines, herbal products to get rid of the food eaten

  • Skipping meals

  • Consuming only low calorie foods

  • Avoiding eating in public

  • Repeated weighing

  • Insomnia

  • Irritability

  • Social withdrawal

  • Denial of hunger or making excuse to avoid eating


Anorexia: Diagnosis

According to Healthline, early indicators of anorexia may be identified by the primary care physician like family doctor or pediatrician.

They may ask questions about eating habits or attitude towards food followed by a physical examination wherein the doctor may suggest additional tests.

Anorexia: Treatment

It is recommended to seek a service of a well qualified team which may consist of a therapist, nutritionist and a physician.

The physician may address the underlying health issue that may have occurred as a result of the eating disorder, such as malnutrition, unstable heartbeat, amenorrhea.

The nutritionist will help with weight restoration by implementing and supervising a well-tailored eating pattern.

The therapist may help in understanding and recognising serious health issues attached to such eating disorders and help in developing coping mechanisms.

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Topics:  Anorexia   anorexia nervosa 

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