Learn about the facts of anorexia nervosa and how it is diagnosed and treated.

Image from Charlotte Astrid, “Body Image.” Creative Commons 2.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that centers around a person not eating and having a fear of gaining weight. Attached to this they also have low self-esteem and a negative perception of their body image. A person suffering from anorexia will be chronically underweight due to their fear of gaining weight. In addition, signs of anorexia include depression, obsession with food and calories, vomiting and purging food, belief of being overweight, intolerant to the cold, joint problems, and fatigue.

There are many similarities between anorexia and bulimia. Since they are so similar, it can be very difficult to tell the difference. Medical and psychological professionals are required to correctly diagnose which disorder is occurring. Anorexia is very serious, and in most cases, is potentially life-threatening. Other diseases and conditions can also be linked with anorexia.

Causes of Anorexia

It is important to state that the actual cause of anorexia has never been proven. Many theories exist and it is widely believed that there are many causes. Similar to bulimia, there are social and environmental factors that contribute to the disorder by displaying a certain body type that many people feel obliged to meet. In doing so people with anorexia take extreme measures that trigger the psychological imbalance that causes the disorder. Largely it is a biological imbalance that causes the symptoms.


The diagnosis of anorexia nervosa is incredibly difficult and there are both medical and psychological elements that must be taken into account. As we all know, anorexia causes starvation of the body which has obvious medical complications. What we tend to forget is that there are also mental complications that must be addressed at the same time. In most cases of anorexia, the diagnosis is made by a number of professionals and then treated in a similar way. To further complicate this process, medical professionals must also deal with a number of other diseases and conditions that mimic the effects and signs of anorexia.

A mixture of treatments is required for dealing with this disorder. Medication is often used in combination with therapy and lifestyle/dietary change and often all are required to have the desired impact. The treatment revolves around treating the psychological problems, removing the behaviors and thoughts that lead to the disorder, and restoring a person to their ‘natural’ body weight. Dietary change is also essential to recovery. A patient must slowly begin to increase their calorie intake along with essential fats and fatty acids. In terms of psychological treatment, the behavior must be changed so that a person no longer feels the need to starve the body.

Once the disorder has been identified and treatment has begun, the outlook is quite positive. While the road to recovery is often a very long one, it is usually very positive and treatment is proven to work if the patient is willing to put forth the effort. While their physical weight can be regained fairly quickly, the behavior and psychological aspects are the areas that take time. The danger zone lies within the first year or two when the risks of relapse are incredibly high.