Anorexia nervosa

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Anorexia nervosa is a destructive cycle of self-starvation associated with "underlying issues of control, perfectionism, and self-perception."[1]

It generally involves severe crash dieting and fasting, often motivated by a belief that one is "too fat" despite being well below average weight.

Individuals who do this typically have a body image distortion and an intense fear of becoming overweight and therefore eat far too little to sustain normal body functions. They usually have an extremely unhealthy body image. If they do not get treatment, their behavior can lead to serious physiology injury or death.

Some people think anorexia is stimulated by the wide publicity given to fashion industry values.

  • Magazines, television, and other media have created an unrealistic image of the perfect, successful person. The pressure to be thin can lead to intense dieting, even in very young children ...[2]
  • Anorexia is more than just a problem with food. It is a way of using food or starving oneself to feel more in control of life and to ease tension, anger, and anxiety. Most people with anorexia are female.[3]
  • People with anorexia are obsessed with being thin. They lose a lot of weight and are terrified of gaining weight. They believe they are fat even though they are very thin. Anorexia isn't just a problem with food or weight. It's an attempt to use food and weight to deal with emotional problems.[4]
  • Anorexia is often preceded by a traumatic event and is usually accompanied by other emotional problems.[5]

Epidemiology of Anorexia

About 90% to 95% of those diagnosed with anorexia nervosa are female. Research indicates that its incidence is between 0.3% to 1.3%, depending on severity.[6]

The disorder most commonly occurs in adolescence.[7]

Factors Credited As Contributory

The media perception of larger-than-average bodies as 'too fat', or something that must be changed via dieting, can contribute to many having an unhealthy body image. Also, some have cited society's pressure on women to be thin and desirable, and on men to be large and muscular, as something that can enhance eating disorders.

Research has not ruled out the possibility that biological factors contribute to the occurrence of anorexia. Anorexia appears to be linked to dysfunction in brain serotonin symptoms.[8]


  1. Anorexia Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
  2. Cultural and social factors in eating disorders - WebMD
  3. [1]
  4. National Alliance on Mental Illness
  5. Anorexia nervosa - University of Maryland Medical Center
  6. [2]
  7. Lask B & Bryant-Waugh R (2000). Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence. Hove: Psychology Press.
  8. Kaye WH, Frank GK, Bailer UF, Henry SE, Meltzer CC, et al. (2005). Serotonin alterations in anorexia and bulimia nervosa: New insights from imaging studies. Physiology & Behavior, 85, 73-81.



Abnormal Psychology, Rosenhan & Seligman, 1984

See also


Bulimia nervosa