09 January 2009

ANOREXIA NERVOSA - Symptoms & Causes

Anorexia Nervosa is a condition where one is obsessed with their weight, shape and a control over food to the point of becoming too thin and unhealthy and yet deny anything is wrong.

Losing weight is the never-ending goal via refusing to eat, exercise, diuretics, laxatives and vomiting. This behavior can lead to severe health problems and death.

Physical Symptoms:
  • weight loss of 15% below average or more
  • too thin, bony appearance
  • abnormal blood counts
  • fatigue, dizziness, fainting
  • brittle nails, osteoporosis
  • hair thins, breaks easily or falls out
  • body becomes covered with a soft "peach fuzz"
  • in females, menstruation stops or skips often
  • constipation
  • dry skin
  • very sensitive to cold
  • irregular heart beat, low blood pressure
  • dehydration
  • erosion of tooth enamel from vomiting

Emotional & Behavioral Symptoms:

  • refusal to eat or eats very little
  • denial of being hungry when one should be
  • excessive exercise
  • lack of emotions
  • difficulty concentrating
  • preoccupied with food
  • constantly makes excuses for not eating
  • has an unusual list of "safe" or "unsafe" foods
  • develops unusual eating rituals
  • weighs food
  • counts calories of everything eaten
  • vomits after eating
  • weighs self often
  • checks body image in mirror often
  • wears big or bulky clothes to hide "fat" body
  • often complains about being fat
The cause of Anorexia Nervosa is unknown. It is suspected that a combination of factors cause it including biology, psychology and culture. Scientists are trying to isolate a responsible gene and are studying the hypothalamus and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) to find contributory causes.

Biological Suspects:

  • Genetics- women with sisters or mothers with Anorexia are more likely to develop it themselves. Studies of twins suggest a genetic link as well
  • 95% of anorexia sufferers are female
  • Anorexia Nervosa is most common in Caucasians
  • Serotonin is suspected of playing a role
Psychological Suspects:
  • Low self esteem
  • Poor body image
  • Obsessive Compulsive traits
  • Drive for perfectionism in endeavors- school, sports, body
  • Fear of growing up/maturing into an adult and thus becoming independent/leave family behind
Cultural Suspects:
  • Dancers, ballerinas and models are pressured to be thin
  • Athletes such as runners, wrestlers, figure skaters and gymnasts are pressured to keep their weight down
  • Role models in the media (television, magazines, films) are thin

Science suggests that certain people are susceptible or vulnerable to becoming anorexic and that some life event triggers it:
  • Compliments on weight loss during a diet cause the person to become obsessed with losing more without having a healthy goal or target weight
  • Ridicule or teasing about gained weight or about current weight
  • Coach or parent suggest weight should be lost to excel at sports, dance or other endeavor
  • Puberty causes some people to become negatively sensitive about their changing weight and shape. Anorexia is most like to start during teenage years but can start at any age.
  • Transitions such as a new home, school, job, breaking up of a relationship, or death/illness of a family member or loved one causes a strong need to regain control over own life

Today, many schools and doctors are monitoring Body Mass Index (BMI) and letting the parents know when their child's too-high or too -low weight endangers their health. Some countries fashion houses are implementing rules for their models regarding minimum age and BMI.

Here is a link for you to calculate your BMI:

For a listing and some pictures of famous people who have or have died from anorexia/bulimia click on http://brainsyoursmineours.blogspot.com/2009/01/famous-people-with-eating-disorders.html#links

Click on this link to read about the treatment of anorexia and bulimia http://brainsyoursmineours.blogspot.com/2009/01/anorexia-bulimia-treatment.html#links

Be aware.


Save a friend.


  1. I don't think I have ever seen such extreme anorexia photos! I have a weak stomach especially when it comes to even thinking about bones, so these pics made me a little queasy. The weird thing is that those pics look like the women are modeling. I sure hope that no one is allowing them to professionally model looking that unhealthy.
    I have heard the couture houses' excuses for using very thin models and it's all BS. This uber-elite obsession with being too skinny must stop.

  2. These photos above is painful for me to look at but this is what this disease does to the suffering victim. I think it's very important for anyone who has friends to recognize the symptoms and keep a close eye out for it because sometimes this problem is in your close circle and you may not even realize it. We were lucky to catch a friend before she went off the deep end. I now always make it a point to keep a close eye on my friends eating habits. Great post, one that is very important.

  3. All I can say is wow! I feel for these people thinking they should be this skinny. I know it is a disorder but I cannot imagine thinking you are fat at that weight.

  4. I found these photos on the internet. Some were attached to biographies of particular people.