Anorexia Nervosa: Signs, Causes and Treatments

Anorexia Nervosa: Signs, Causes and Treatments

Anorexia Nervosa: Definition, Symptoms, and Treatment


While many people worry about gaining weight, a certain group develops an obsession with this topic, leading to a condition known as anorexia nervosa (AA).

According to the Diagnostic Manual of Statistics and Mental Disorders (DSM-V), anorexia nervosa is a common type of eating disorder that makes patients preoccupied with their caloric intake, weight, and body image.

These individuals consume very few calories to avoid gaining weight. They may also exercise excessively to further reduce their body mass index (BMI).

AA is most commonly seen in female adolescents, but males and other age groups could also develop this condition.

In this article, we will briefly cover the causes, symptoms, and treatment options of anorexia nervosa.

The causes of anorexia nervosa

Like most other mental disorders, the exact cause of AA is still unclear.

In general, people with this condition have an unusual obsession with their body image and always seek the perfect physique.

Factors that contribute to the development of AA include:

  • Genetics and hormonal imbalance (e.g., serotonin)
  • External pressure from society
  • Having concurrent mental disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa

Patients with AA lose weight at an extremely rapid rate and avoid all activities that may contribute to weight gain regardless of how insignificant that might be.

Studies also found that AA patients may use the binge and purge method, laxatives, vomiting, and medications (e.g., diuretics) to get rid of the weight.

Aside from these behaviors, AA may present with the following:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss
  • Digestive problems
  • Skin discoloration (yellow)
  • Secondary amenorrhea (i.e., absence of menstrual periods for 3 consecutive times)
  • Low blood pressure
  • The tendency to exercise excessively
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Social isolation

The treatments of anorexia nervosa

The biggest hurdle to come across when dealing with AA is for patients to realize they have a problem.

You see, many patients with AA believe that their behavior is completely normal, which makes the treatment quite challenging.

Therapies usually consist of:

Psychotherapy – the most commonly used approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy, where the therapist will attempt to change your perspective about AA and how it’s impacting your life.

Group therapy – during these sessions, you’ll share your story with people who are dealing with similar conditions or have already recovered. Other members of the group will share challenges, tips, and motivational steps to keep fighting this condition.

Medication – drugs that showed effectiveness in the treatment of AA include antidepressants and anxiolytics.

Hospitalization – this option is left for severe cases of low caloric intake that places the body under so much pressure, which could eventually lead to complications. Patients will receive intravenous fluids to replenish their energy.

Takeaway message

Anorexia nervosa is a challenging condition to deal with, especially when the patient denies that he/she has a problem.

Hopefully, we managed to introduce this eating disorder in a simple, entertaining manner.