What Causes Anorexia?

Anorexia, or Anorexia Nervosa, is one of the most common eating disorder. Anorexia, as a word, means lack of desire to eat which is really not the case. Anorexic people get hunger pangs or desires to eat, but they chose to ignore it. This stems from their unreasonable and irrational fear of becoming fat or gaining weight. The fear remains regardless of how thin the person becomes even to a point of starvation. An anorexic behavior can be potentially life threatening due to several complications that may arise from it.

An anorexic may restrict food intake by excessive dieting, unhealthy fasting and extreme exercising. They may also engage in binge-eating. Binge-eaters may restrict food intake but will give into their desire to eat from time to time. Binge-eaters eat extremely large quantities of food in short periods of time followed by purging behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, intake of laxatives or diuretics.

In the past, many believe anorexia to be strictly a psychological problem. However, recent studies show that not only does it have psychological causes, but also cultural and biological too.

Psychological Causes

Family and social pressures contribute greatly to psychological causes of anorexia. Anorexic people loath the person they see in the mirror. As emaciated as they look, they still see themselves as fat and ugly. They have low self-esteem and see themselves as inferior. Most people diagnosed with anorexia may have come from a family that don’t promote self acceptance and whose mindset is all about “Thin is beautiful”. Often, their mothers may engage in diets and may often criticize their daughters’ body and looks.

At times, teasing from siblings or friends can play a major role in making an individual obsessed in thinking that they are fat. This can drastically alter an individual’s perception of oneself. Moving in a social circle where people engage in activities that have weight requirements is also likely to contribute to an eating disorder. Some of these activities are modeling and ballet.

Biological Causes

Medical scientists and nutritionists have discovered that chemical imbalances that exist in individuals with anorexia are also the same chemical imbalances that are present in people with clinical depression. These chemical imbalances are in the form of 3 hormones– cortisol, serotonin and norepinephrine. People with anorexia are said to have higher levels of cortisol resulting to higher stress levels and lower levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, resulting to a more depressed, anxiety-ridden moods. Some cases of anorexia have also been linked to severe zinc deficiency.

Cultural Causes

Media, in forms of magazines and television, have glorified stick thin models. There are an abundance of diet pills, diet regimens, weight loss procedures and slimming products that only stress the fact that ramrod thin is the new ideal of beauty.

Biological factors may play a big role, but psychological and cultural factors play an equally important role too. An individual raised in a loving and accepting environment is likely to have higher self-esteem and is less prone to eating disorders.


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