Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by a restriction of energy intake leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health. Often this is paired with poor or distorted body image and an intense fear of gaining weight.


Behavioral Warning Signs of Anorexia

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Calorie restriction
  • Food obsession: someone who appears to be preoccupied with food, their weight or calorie intake.
  • Sudden interest in diet
  • Fear of weight gain
  • Refusal of food
  • Strange eating habits or food rituals
  • Denial of hunger or weight loss
  • Compulsive exercising
  • Social withdrawal
  • Frequent body and weight checking


Contributing Factors

Anorexia can have multiple causes, including biological, psychological and sociocultural factors.

Biological factors such as genetics and family history of an eating disorder can make individuals more likely to be affected. Social factors like someone's environment, profession and group affiliation can impact the onset of anorexia. For example, sports that focus heavily on weight (ie: dancing, wrestling, gymnastics), working in a profession or being a member of a group that is highly reliant on appearance and image have a higher probability of struggling with an eating disorder. Social media messaging and images promoting the thin beauty ideal are considered sociocultural factors. Psychological factors are co-existing illnesses and personality traits such as depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Anorexia can lead to serious health complications that can have life-threatening consequences if not treated promptly and effectively. Some of the consequences include:

  • Electrolyte imbalances which can result in significant health complications
  • Bradycardia- when someone’s heart beats at a lower rate than normal
  • Osteoporosis- Anorexia is associated with bone health issues that can be irreversible.
  • Amenorrhea- an absence or delayed onset of their menstrual cycle
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, bloating and gastroparesis
  • Cold intolerance, hair loss, skin and nail discoloration
  • Heart failure