Anorexia Nervosa

A psychological eating disorder in which a person refuses to eat adequately in spite of hunger and loses enough weight to become emaciated. The person eats very little, and refuses to stop dieting after a reasonable weight loss. The body perception is distorted; person sees self as “fat” when she or he is at normal or emaciated. Anorexia nervosa primarily affects teenage and young adult females and occasionally young men.


  • Weight loss of at least 25% of body weight physical illness.
  • High energy level despite body wasting.
  • Intense fear of obesity.
  • Depression.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Constipation.
  • Cold intolerance.
  • Refusal to maintain a minimum standard weight for age and height.
  • Distorted body image. The person continues to feel fat even when emaciated.


Unknown. Suggested causes include family and internal conflicts (sexual conflicts); phobia about putting on weight; changes in fashion in USA (being slim is identified with beauty); a symptom of depression or personality disorder.


  • Peer pressure to be thin.
  • History of slight overweight.
  • Perfectionist, compulsive or overachieving personalities.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Stress due to multiple responsibilities, tight schedules.
  • Ballet dancers, models, cheerleaders and athletes.


  • Confront personal problems realistically. Try to correct or cope with problems, such as stress, with the help of counselors, therapists, family and friends.
  • Develop rational attitude about weight.


  • Treatable if the patient recognizes the emotional disturbances, wants to help and cooperates in treatment.
  • Without treatment, this can cause permanent disability and death. Persons with anorexia nervosa have a high rate of attempted suicide due to low self-esteem.


  • Chronic anorexia nervosa caused by patient’s resistance to treatment.
  • Electrolyte disturbances or irregular heartbeat. These may be life-threatening.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Suicide.