The Psychology Behind Anorexia Nervosa


Anorexia nervosa is a multi-factorial mental disorder that affects mostly women. This means that it is caused by many interrelated factors and in many instances, there is no single factor to link to disorder. Whatever is the cause, the concern of the individual is to attain an “acceptable” body figure by aggressive means up to the point of starving and killing themselves from the complications of the condition. However, to the person suffering from anorexia nervosa, there is no “acceptable” body weight. There is only disapproval and feeling of disgust every time she sees her image in the mirror.

Anorexia nervosa is a greedy illness. It takes everything it can. — Lauren Grunebaum L.C.S.W.

It’s more than counting calories

Anorexia nervosa is far more than monitoring the weight and controlling food intake. According to psychiatrists and psychologists, the condition may be very evident during the adolescent or young adult years, but the reason for doing so can go far back to the infancy period. All of the behaviors associated during the infancy period are stored in the unconscious mind which can resurface as negative adult behaviors later in life. In the case of eating disorders, experts think that if infants are over fed or under fed and not following a normal feeding schedule, can result in eating disorders in later life. Foods used as a form of discipline, given as a punishment or a reward, comfort other than the nutritive purposes can somehow predispose the person to develop a love-hate relationship with food.



Eating disorders are not a choice. No one chooses to lose all of their friends, because they cannot go anywhere that there will be food. — Jennifer Rollin MSW, LCSW-C

As the child gets older, a very strict and nagging mother and a passive father may be the link to anorexia nervosa. The child exerts more effort to please the mother academically, however, it is still not enough for the mother. The daughter continues to feel the pressure and deprives herself with nutrition and suffering from lack of self-esteem. Another contributing factor is the constant critical comments of parents about the body image of their daughters.

Look for warning signs

A common and evident sign of anorexia nervosa is the rapid weight loss and inappropriate behaviors regarding food intake. Aside from not taking in foods, the person will also engage in active and strenuous exercises, do it even in ungodly schedules, example, doing 100 push-ups before sleeping or jogging after eating. These can be considered as warning signs that the person may be having anorexia nervosa and should get help or provided with psychological help urgently.

In our weight-biased culture, when a fat person loses weight, it is almost always seen as a good thing. Even when that weight loss is caused by an eating disorder. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.


Therapy for both the parents and the patient

Persons with eating persons have problems with low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Despite their strong willed personality and conviction to lose weight, the inner demons that they are struggling within themselves still remain to be unconquered. If the cause of the eating disorder leans towards the involvement of the parents, family therapy should be a part of the treatment process. Nowadays, persons struggling with weight loss and underlying psychological disturbances can access online therapy and talk to professional therapists who are readily available to provide psychological help.

Feelings of shame and guilt about one’s self image can cause individuals to continue on a cycle of stress if they do not have a productive outlet. — Greta Gleissner LCSW