Anorexia Nervosa: Causes, Symptoms, Types, Diagnosis and Treatments

Anorexia Nervosa, most commonly known as anorexia, is a serious life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. It transcends the realm of food, delving into a complex interplay of self-perception and societal influence. The causes are multifaceted, including genetic, biological, behavioral, and societal factors. This article aims to dissect the various aspects of this condition, from its causes and symptoms to the different types, diagnosis, and potential treatments available.


The exact cause of anorexia nervosa is unknown, and it can vary from person to person. However, several factors may contribute to the development of this disorder.

Genetic Factors

Research suggests that genetics may play a role in the development of anorexia nervosa. Research indicates that individuals with a familial background of eating disorders have a higher susceptibility to developing anorexia.. Additionally, certain genetic factors may affect the regulation of appetite and weight, making individuals more susceptible to this disorder.

Biological Factors

Biological factors such as hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, and brain abnormalities have been linked to an increased risk of developing anorexia nervosa. For instance, low levels of the hormone leptin, which plays a role in regulating appetite, have been found in individuals with anorexia.

Behavioral Factors

Behavioral factors such as strict dieting, perfectionism, and low self-esteem can also contribute to the development of anorexia nervosa. People who engage in extreme dieting or restrictive eating patterns may be more at risk for developing this disorder.

Societal Factors

The societal pressure to be thin can also play a significant role in the development of anorexia nervosa. Media images portraying thinness as the ideal body type, along with cultural and social expectations, can influence individuals to strive for an unrealistic and unhealthy weight.


Anorexia nervosa is defined by a prominent symptom: substantial and noticeable weight loss. as a result of self-starvation. However, there are several other physical and psychological symptoms to look out for.

Physical Symptoms

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Thin appearance
  • Abnormal blood counts (low red blood cells, low white blood cells)
  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Dizziness or fainting spells

Psychological Symptoms

  • Having a distorted body image (perceiving oneself as overweight despite being underweight)
  • Refusal to maintain a healthy body weight
  • Overwhelming dread of weight gain or developing an obese physique
  • Preoccupation with food, calories, and nutrition


There are two main types of anorexia nervosa: restricting type and binge-eating/purging type.

Restricting Type

Individuals with this type of anorexia severely restrict their food intake, often by cutting out entire food groups or consuming very little. They may also engage in excessive exercise to burn off any calories consumed.

Binge-Eating/Purging Type

Individuals with this type of anorexia also restrict their food intake but will occasionally engage in episodes of binge eating and purging behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting or the use of laxatives.


The diagnosis of anorexia nervosa is based on a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional. This may include physical and psychological assessments, as well as blood tests to rule out any underlying medical conditions. The diagnostic criteria include:

  • Consistent limitation of energy consumption resulting in a markedly reduced body weight.
  • Experiencing an overwhelming phobia of weight gain or becoming overweight, even when one is already underweight.
  • A distorted body image and the inability to recognize the seriousness of one’s low body weight


Treatment for anorexia nervosa typically involves a multidisciplinary approach, including medical care, nutritional counseling, and psychotherapy. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary to monitor and stabilize the individual’s health. The ultimate goal of treatment is to restore a healthy weight and address underlying psychological issues.

Medical Care

Treatment for anorexia nervosa typically encompasses nutritional support, medication management, and diligent monitoring of potential complications stemming from malnutrition.

Nutritional Counseling

Nutritional counseling plays a crucial role in treating anorexia nervosa. It involves working with a registered dietitian to develop a meal plan that meets the individual’s nutritional needs and gradually restores a healthy weight.


Psychotherapy, specifically cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is considered the most effective treatment for anorexia nervosa. CBT helps individuals address their distorted thoughts and behaviors related to food, weight, and body image. Family-based therapy has also shown promising results in treating anorexia nervosa, particularly in adolescents.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can men develop anorexia nervosa?

Yes, although it is more prevalent in women, anorexia nervosa can affect individuals of any gender.

Is anorexia nervosa a choice?

No, anorexia nervosa is a serious mental health disorder and not a choice. It is essential to seek professional help to overcome this condition.

Is recovery possible for individuals with anorexia nervosa?

Yes, with proper treatment and support, individuals can recover from anorexia nervosa. However, the road to recovery may be long and challenging, and it is essential to seek ongoing support even after achieving a healthy weight.


Anorexia nervosa is a complex and serious eating disorder that requires professional treatment. It is essential to remember that this disorder is not a choice, and individuals should seek help as soon as possible. With proper support and treatment, recovery is achievable, and individuals can go on to live healthy and fulfilling lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with anorexia nervosa, do not hesitate to seek help and support. Remember, recovery is possible. So take the first step towards a healthier life today.

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This site provides educational information only. It is important not to depend on any content here in place of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Similarly, it should not replace professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any health concerns or questions, always seek guidance from a physician or another healthcare professional.