Anorexia Nervosa

What you need to know

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The disorder and its symptoms

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder that causes people to literally starve themselves. The extreme desire to lose weight causes people to consume little-to-no food and causes them to continuously remain convinced that they need to lose even more weight (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). When you have anorexia nervosa, the desire to lose weight becomes the most important aspect in life (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.). People ultimately have a distorted image of their body. They believe they are overweight. Despite the fact that they are already significantly below what it minimally normal for their age and height, they continue to struggle with an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming too fat so they continue to engage in behavior that would interfere with any weight gain (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Primary symptoms of anorexia nervosa consist of:

  • Dieting despite the fact that you are already thin (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • Pretending to eat or lying about eating (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • Strange or secretive food rituals (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • Dramatic weight loss (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • Extremely critical of appearance (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • Denial of being too thin (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • An obsessive fixation on body image (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • Feeling fat despite the fact that you are significantly underweight (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • Extremely critical of appearance (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams and dieting (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

Potential Causes

Anorexia nervosa is a very complex condition that forms from a combination of factors, i.e. social, emotional as well as biological (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.). The idealization our culture enforces on thinness is powerful and plays a significant role, but other contributing factors can be to blame as well, which include family environment, emotional difficulties, low self-esteem and even traumatic experiences can trigger this disorder (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

Some major risk factors for anorexia nervosa are body dissatisfaction, perfectionism, low self-esteem, history of physical or sexual abuse, family history of eating disorders, difficulty in expression feelings, troubled family relationships (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

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You probably feel as though there are no ways that you can ever regain control of your life, but you are wrong, it is very possible. There are treatments for anorexia nervosa. It is deciding to get help that is the most difficult step to take.

Treatment involves getting back to a healthy weight, starting to gradually eat more food, change how you feel and think about yourself and food (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

Anorexia consumes both your mind as well as your body, so the best approach at treatment consists of a team approach, which would involve medical doctors, psychologists, counselors as well as dieticians (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.). Having a strong support system with family and friends also will make a tremendous difference in treatment being successful (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.). A treatment plan may look something like this:

  • Medical treatment: Address and stabilize (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.). Hospitalization may be necessary (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.). Outpatient treatment (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • Nutritional treatment: A nutritionist or a dietician will help teach you about healthy eating and proper nutrition (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.). Develop delicious meal plans that include the calories needed (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

  • Counseling and therapy: Identify the negative thoughts and feelings that add the fuel to your eating disorder (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.). Achieve healthier beliefs (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.). Learn how to handle difficult emotions, relationship problems and stress in a productive and healthy way (Anorexia Nervosa, n.d.).

Myths Debunked

There are indeed several misconceptions in regard to anorexia nervosa. Let us set the record straight in this regard on just a few.

One myth is that people with anorexia nervosa are just trying to get attention. The fact in regard to this is that people do not develop the disorder as a means to seeking out attention. They may use this as a coping mechanism though, but there is a difference (Shepphird, 2009).

Another myth is that people choose to have anorexia. This is absolutely absurd. Why would someone willingly choose to live this way. People do not choose to have anorexia (Shepphird, 2009). It is in fact a serious psychiatric illness (Shepphird, 2009).

Another myth you may have heard is that anorexia is a "rich, young, white girls' problem" (Shepphird, 2009). Research that has been conducted proves that this is indeed not true (Shepphird, 2009). A person who has anorexia can be from any form of racial, ethnic or economic backgrounds (Shepphird, 2009). It also affects young and old as well as males and females (Shepphird, 2009).

Lastly, there is a myth that anorexia is just a phase. The fact is that anorexia is never normal behavior and it is not just a phase and needs serious attention (Shepphird, 2009).

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Anorexia Nervosa: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal psychology (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Pinterest. (n.d.). Anorexia, the ugly truth [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Shepphird, S. (2009, February 19). Top 10 Myths About Anorexia | Britannica Blog. Retrieved from