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Anorexia nervosa: symptoms, causes and treatment

Anorexia nervosa: symptoms, causes and treatment

October 5, 2022

The imposition of canons of beauty absolutely impossible on the part of society is increasingly increasing and although there are many revolutions that we are living that aim to change them, still generate a strong impact on the mind and self-esteem of people.

One of the direct consequences of these beauty models is the appearance and increase of cases of eating disorders, among them anorexia nervosa . Throughout this article we will discuss the characteristics of this disorder, as well as its symptoms, causes and possible treatments.

  • Related article: "The 10 most common eating disorders"

What is anorexia nervosa?

Within the classification of eating disorders we find a disorder known as anorexia nervosa or simply anorexia. Although it occurs mainly in women, this disease affects more and more men, and causes those who suffer from it. the need to restrict your food intake , with the consequent loss of weight.


This decrease in body weight can reach dangerously low levels, since the limitation of food intake is caused by an exacerbated fear of losing weight together with the distorted perception of one's body.

This means that no matter how thin or heavy the person loses, it is never enough, because when looking at himself in the mirror he will continue to perceive a distorted body shape that does not conform to reality. Which leads the patient to make all kinds of sacrifices around food.

Among these sacrifices are all types of behavior aimed at losing weight, or not to win, people with anorexia nervosa limit the amount of food eaten in excess. In the same way, they can resort to purgative behaviors , the use of laxatives and diuretics and exercise in excess to burn calories.


The reality is that in anorexia is not relevant to the way in which the patient tries to lose weight, if not the exaggerated fear experienced to increase it.

  • You may be interested: "The 12 types of obsessions (symptoms and characteristics)"

What is the difference between bulimia?

Although the aforementioned purging behaviors can be associated with another eating disorder known as bulimia, there are a number of essential differences between the two disorders: In anorexia these purging episodes do not always occur, whereas in bulimia it is an essential requirement for diagnosis .

In bulimia the person ingests large amounts of food, usually high in calories, in a short space of time. They are called binge eating. However, in anorexia the person avoid eating at all costs and have an exhaustive control of calories .


Anorexic persons are characterized by a dangerously low body weight, while in bulimia they usually have a normative weight or even higher than what is recommended.

  • Related article: "Bulimia nervosa: the disorder of bingeing and vomiting"

What are the symptoms?

As mentioned previously, the main symptoms of anorexia are related to the refusal or restriction of dietary intake, low weight and excessive fear of gaining weight.

But nevertheless, There is a wide variety of symptoms within this eating disorder . These symptoms can be classified into two groups: physical symptoms and behavioral and emotional symptomatology

1. Physical symptoms

The physical symptomatology of anorexia nervosa includes:

  • Excessively thin appearance
  • Excessive weight loss .
  • Feeling tired.
  • Insomnia.
  • Dizziness
  • Fades .
  • Abnormal levels of different blood elements.
  • Blue color of the fingers of the hand.
  • Amenorrhea.
  • Hair loss.
  • Constipation .
  • Alteration of the heart rate.
  • Arterial hypertension.
  • Dehydration .
  • Osteoporosis.

2. Behavioral symptoms

It includes all those behaviors that the person carries out in order to lose weight. Among them are:

  • Strict restriction of food intake.
  • Exercise excessively .
  • Purgative behavior and use of laxatives, enemas or diuretics.

3. Emotional symptoms

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an emotional symptomatology that includes the following aspects:

  • Experimentation of a intense fear of gaining weight .
  • Excessive concern for food.
  • Denial of the feeling of hunger.
  • Lying about ingested food .
  • Irritability.
  • Withdrawal or social isolation.
  • Alexithymia or inability to experience and manifest emotions.
  • Depressive mood .
  • Suicidal ideas
  • Lack of interest in sex.

How can it be detected?

Some of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa can be difficult to identify at first sight, since the person himself is aware of them and They do everything possible to hide them .

However, there are a number of warning signs or behaviors in which we can determine if we are not medical professionals and we want to determine if someone in our environment suffers from this condition.

Among these signs are:

  • Skip meals constantly.
  • Make some excuse not to eat.
  • Rigorous selection of foods, usually low in calories.
  • Weigh ourselves continuously .
  • Continuous complaints regarding its weight.
  • Avoid eating in public.
  • Change your dress codes , using more and more layers.

What are the causes?

At the moment it has not been possible to determine a specific or exact cause that causes the appearance of anorexia nervosa, so it is hypothesized that there are a series of biological and psychological factors and the environment that precipitate it.

The experience of traumatic personal or social events or with a very high emotional load can play a fundamental role when determining the appearance of this eating disorder.

In addition, recent studies point to the possibility that there are a number of genes associated with the behaviors of anorexia, such as compulsions, depression, perfectionism and emotional sensitivity. However, at the moment it has not been possible to find any gene or organic pathology directly related to anorexia.

Is there a treatment?

Anorexia nervosa It is a very serious disorder which, in the case of not being treated, can have fatal consequences for the person. To the point that statistics reveal that 10% of untreated cases of severe anorexia end with the death of the patient.

Due to the state of gravity that the situation can reach, It is essential to make an effective diagnosis and start the treatment sooner.

A key piece in the effectiveness of the treatment is found in the involvement of the patient's environment in the treatment. This intervention includes psychotherapy, in which psychological work is carried out on the emotional and cognitive aspects of the disorder, including distorted body perception.

In the same way, it should be done somatic monitoring and the physical state of the person , as well as the development of a series of nutritional guidelines that help the person in their reconciliation with food.

Finally, in some cases it is possible to resort to pharmacological treatment with antidepressants or anxiolytics, which reduce the intensity of the symptoms and facilitate psychological work.

Unfortunately, anorexia nervosa is an alteration with a high risk of relapse, so both family members and medical professionals should be attentive to the patient's development.


Eating disorder signs and symptoms (October 2022).


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