Anorexia aka Anorexia Nervosa

Sarah Blackburn

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
  • distorted body image
  • excessive exercise

Two types

  1. restricting- refuse to eat
  2. binge/purge- binge eating or self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives

(Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014)

Symptoms To Look For:

Low body weight maintained through starvation, excessive exercise, binge eating and purging. The body will be dehydrated, dizzy, have low blood pressure, feel cold, fatigued, and poor balance. The person may have irregular menstrual cycles, delayed puberty, or slow growth. It is also common for a person suffering from anorexia to have dry brittle hair, skin, and nails. They may be depressed, fearful, or anxious.

(Mayo Clinic Staff, 2015)

What Causes Anorexia?

Biological Factors:

Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder, and like most of them anorexia can run in families. The hypothalamus has a distinct role in controlling appetites, it receives messages from neurotransmitters letting the brain know the body is full. Eating disorders, such as anorexia, could be caused by imbalances in the hypothalamus. These people have lower functioning of the hypothalamus and abnormalities in hormone levels resulting in abnormal functioning.

Psychological Factors:

Social pressures and cultural norms have been linked to to eating disorders. The standard of beauty for women has become thinner and thinner. Athletes have great pressure to look a certain way and that raises the risk for developing anorexia. TV ads, social media, reality TV shows, magazine, Barbie dolls, models, etc. all use unrealistic women body types and those can be a bad influence for young girls and boys.

Body dissatisfaction combined with social pressure leads to eating disorders. Most people with anorexia have low self-esteem and value the opinion of others. They feel like getting to a certain weight will get them the approval they desire.

Anorexia can be a way to deal with emotions. It is a vicious cycle for these people, they binge eat to deal with feelings and that leads to purging. They are not at peace with their body size or weight.

Over controlling parents can inadvertently steer their children towards anorexic behavior. These children have no control over anything and learn they can control the amount of food they intake.

(Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014)

Big image
They just want ATTENTION!

Anorexia is a severe form of body disorder and is life threatening.

They'll grow out of IT!

Not true, the longer a person has anorexia the longer it is to recover.

People with ANOREXIA do not feel HUNGRY!

They feel hunger pains and are obsessed with food they will not allow themselves to eat.

Dieting causes ANOREXIA!

False, although if one is prone to anorexia, it can be triggered by excessive diets.

You cannot die from ANOREXIA if you exercise and keep your heart STRONG!

Anorexia is deadly even for those who exercise regularly.

(Child Mind Institute, 2015)


Treatment can be difficult for with anorexia nervosa because they put a lot of value on the thinness they acquire. It is important for the therapist to work hard to win the trust of an anorexic. They are asking them to change the behavior and gain the weight they are so fearful of. Psychotherapy can help, although, it is a long process with many setbacks. Not only do they need to work on the anorexia, but they need to deal with the initial problems that may have caused the anorexic behavior to spiral out of control, such as self-esteem, family issues, depression, and,or anxiety.

Cognitive-behavior therapies are the most effective treatment. Using positive rewards as the person gains weight will help them learn new, healthier behavior. Relaxation techniques are another valuable tool to use in treatment along with family therapy.

Antidepressants are used to treat anorexia nervosa and have reduced symptoms 50% of the time.

  • Olanzapine, an antipsychotic, leads to weight gain
  • Topiramate & Orlistat, obesity medications, reduces binge eating but does not help with body image

(Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014)

Finding the right help...

In order to obtain a proper diagnosis of an eating disorder, a person should visit a licensed psychologist or another mental health expert. This person might hold a doctoral-level degree in psychology, or the person might hold an advanced degree in social work, and the person might continue to provide mental health care as treatment moves forward. Some professionals take extra courses in eating disorders and their treatment, and they obtain certification through the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP). These practitioners may refer to themselves as Certified Eating Disorders Specialists (CEDS), although not everyone who is qualified to help diagnose and treat eating disorders obtains this certification.


Child Mind Institute. (2015). Myths about anorexia nervosa. Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Diseases and Conditions: Anorexia Nervosa. Retrieved from

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.