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What Causes Anorexia

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What Causes Anorexia

What Causes Anorexia

Anorexia Nervosa or known as “Anorexia” is a life-threatening disease that causes someone to obsess about their weight and slim figure to the point of not eating or severely reducing their calorie intake. Someone suffering from anorexia will use extreme measures in order to maintain a low body weight such as laxatives, purging, diuretics, diet aids, low calorie intake or excessive exercise.

People with this disease will do whatever it takes, despite negative consequences such as starving themselves. At this point their bodies will go into a shock causing them to function at a different level than normal.

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa:

Behavioral Signs:

  • Severe weight loss
  • Wearing layers to hide weight loss
  • Obsessed with weight gain, food, calories, dieting or exercise
  • Denies hunger cues
  • Uncomfortable eating in public
  • Talks about needing to burn off calories taken in
  • Avoids mealtimes or situations where food is involved
  • Refuses to eat specific foods in fear of gaining weight (no carbohydrates, fats, etc.)
  • Unable to maintain a weight that is appropriate for their age, height and overall build
  • Intense fear of being overweight or fat despite weight loss
  • Body aches such as constipation, lethargy, cold intolerance or excess energy
  • Constantly commenting on being fat or overweight
  • Female loses period post puberty
  • Inflexible thinking and lack of social spontaneity
  • Heightened emotional expression

Physical Signs:

  • Gastrointestinal problems including stomach pains, constipation or acid reflux
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Difficulties with concentration
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Dry skin
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Anemia, low thyroid or other hormone imbalances
  • Fine hair on the body (lanugo)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cuts or callouses around the finger or joint area due to forced vomiting
  • Yellowing skin
  • Lowered immune system
  • Dental problems such as cavities or tooth sensitivity
  • Dry or brittle hair
  • Poor wound healing

Risk Factors

Eating disorders are a complex disease and can affect lots of different people. Researchers have found some similarities in people affected with anorexia and many factors can contribute to someone developing it including environmental, biological, psychological and sociocultural.

Some studies show that there is a correlation between serotonin levels and someone developing anorexia. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that effects learning, mood and sleep as well as other things. Serotonin can affect a person’s eating habits or behaviors causing them to become anorexic.

The pressure from a person’s society to be thin and beautiful can play a role in them developing an eating disorder.

Environmental Factors

Biological Factors Studies have shown that there are genetic components that contribute to someone developing an eating disorder. A person with a family member who suffers from an eating disorder are 7-12 times more likely to develop one themselves. Inherited characteristics such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, overthinking or other mental health disorders can cause a person to overly obsess about weight or being thin.

Psychological Factors someone who suffers from mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders may be more likely to develop an eating disorder. People who have suffered from trauma may use control over their eating habits in order to cope with the stress or anxiety.

Sociocultural Factors The need to remain thin and beautiful can be attributed to social norms and expectations that a person look a certain way to be attractive or worthy. There is a lot of pressure for people to look good and often celebrities or other people in the media will go to extreme measures to lose weight.

Anorexia Nervosa Statistics

It can be difficult to get accurate results of studies on anorexia because many people who suffer from it do not want to admit to having it. It shows a lack of control and vulnerability that a lot of people can’t endure.

People with anorexia will often do things to hide the disease such as wearing baggy clothing, pretending to eat or deny symptoms that they are experiencing.


My name is Ashley Lytwyn and I’m the director of nutrition at breathe life healing centers in West Hollywood California. At Breathe we help people recover from eating disorders and anorexia is an eating disorder that we treat.

Anorexia is a disorder that is characterized by very low body weight. The fear of gaining weight even if it’s just a couple pounds and having a distorted view of your own body or shape.

People suffering from anorexia are compelled to diet and exercise regardless of the negative consequences on the body mind and soul. Restricting food becomes an automatic habit and thought of eating high-calorie food has a lot of fear and anxiety. With the restriction the brain of the gut function is altered a person is in a starved state. This changes the way that we think and behave the ability to pay attention to focus to concentrate on things that you would normally love and that starts to deteriorate.

When the brain isn’t getting enough food it will constantly think about what it needs. And in this case its food!

A few causes of anorexia might be genetic or hormonal. Specifically relating to the signals that convey hunger and fullness. It might be social or environmental with popular diet culture. Emphasizing yo-yo dieting, glorifying weight loss, and idealizing people in smaller bodies.

It can also be asymptomatic expression of unresolved trauma. The treatment and recovery process for anorexia can be challenging due to the sheer nature of this disorder.

The disorder takes away the ability to rationally or reasonably think about what food does for the body. And what it really does? It provide respect and nourishment for our lives. Weight restoration, normalizing eating behaviors, and challenging those negative perceptions about food and body are the first steps for recovery.

Anorexia is more common among women and men only make up 10% of total sufferers. Statistics show that somewhere between 1-5% of all adolescent females or young women may develop anorexia at some point in their life. It is most common among teenagers and young adolescents, but it is not unheard of for older people to develop it. It is not as common among people over the age of 40 but it does happen. The average age that someone develops the disease is 17 and generally people under the age of 10 do not ever have it.


If your doctor suspects that you have anorexia, they will typically perform some tests to determine whether you have it. These tests include:

Physical Exam a physical exam from your doctor that includes getting your height and weight checked, vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate and temperature.

Lab Testing blood tests or other lab testing to check proteins and electrolytes may be performed. Your liver, kidney and thyroid may also be evaluated.

Psychological Evaluation a physician will ask detailed questions about your thoughts, feelings and habits around eating. There may be a self-assessment with many questions.

Other testing there may be x-rays done in order to check bone density, bone fractures and to check for heart problems or pneumonia.

Los Angeles Anorexia Treatment

Anorexia is one of the most painful mental health disorders in the world. Not only are you suffering from the severe physical effects caused by the disorder, but you are probably also grappling with the emotional aspects of it, too. Continuing with your behaviors surrounding food and nourishment will only lead to negative results, including the potential for death. And while it can be hard to ask for help, doing so can save your life.

There is no shame in struggling with an eating disorder, regardless of how severe it is. Participating in anorexia eating disorder treatment in Los Angeles can help you to not only get better physically but also address the psychological issues that stand in the way from accepting yourself as you are.

There is no time to wait. Call us today and begin your journey to recovery.

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