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What Causes Anorexia Nervosa?
Over the years, anorexia nervosa has been viewed primarily as a psychiatric diagnosis. Childhood trauma can linger into adulthood, often with devastating emotional consequences. Victims of childhood sexual abuse often suffer from anorexia nervosa, along with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, and self-destructive behaviors. They learn silence, secrecy, and shame.
About half of people with anorexia nervosa also have other mental health issues, such as an anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or social phobia. A third to half may suffer from a mood disorder like bipolar disorder or depression. Alcohol abuse and drug addiction are common in people who suffer from anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. Mental health therapies are part of the process of recovery from eating disorders.
People with anorexia nervosa often:
- Spend a lot of time thinking about food and calories.
- Run their lives according to strict rules about eating.
- Skip meals and avoid eating in public.
Retraining the brain to develop a healthy attitude toward eating is vital to recovery from anorexia. It’s important to get treatment because people with anorexia nervosa can get seriously ill — or even die — from the disorder.
Scientists continue to explore the behavioral, psychological, and cultural factors that influence anorexia nervosa. Although the roots of the disorder remain elusive, researchers suspect that genetics plays a role in more than half of cases [see Genetics].
Warning signs of anorexia nervosa include:
- Focus on weight and morbid preoccupation with dieting
- Secrecy, rituals, and odd behaviors related to eating habits, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or pushing it around the plate
- Excessive exercise
- Wearing large or baggy clothes to disguise weight loss
- Noticeable personality changes and social withdrawal
People with anorexia nervosa often deny that they have a problem. They don’t want to gain weight, so they reject help.
Angela Guarda, MD
Angela Guarda, MD is the Stephen and Jean Robinson Associate Professor of Eating Disorders in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at…Read More…
It is impossible to recover from Anorexia unless you reach a minimal normal weight.
– Angela Guarda, MD
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