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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body image [1]. This condition can lead to severe physical and emotional complications.



Anorexia Nervosa is prevalent predominantly among adolescent females, but it can affect individuals of any age or gender [2]. It is estimated that 0.3%-0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men may suffer from this disorder [3].

Table 1: Prevalence in Different Age Groups and Genders

Age GroupFemaleMale

Risk Factors

Various risk factors contribute to the development of Anorexia Nervosa, including genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and psychological issues [4].


Genetic Factors

Research has shown that genetic factors may contribute up to 60% of the risk of developing Anorexia Nervosa. Twin studies have indicated a higher concordance rate in identical twins compared to non-identical twins.

Psychological Factors

Individuals with Anorexia Nervosa often exhibit perfectionistic tendencies, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive traits. The interplay between these psychological factors can contribute to the onset and maintenance of the disorder.

Environmental and Cultural Factors

The cultural emphasis on thinness, media portrayal of ideal body types, and peer pressure can significantly contribute to the development of Anorexia Nervosa. Family dynamics, particularly those involving high levels of control or criticism, have also been associated with this disorder.

Clinical Features

Physical Manifestations

Anorexia Nervosa leads to severe physical complications, including emaciation, hormonal imbalances, cardiac issues, and osteoporosis. Table 2 summarizes the main physical manifestations.

Table 2: Physical Manifestations of Anorexia Nervosa

EmaciationExtreme thinness and loss of muscle mass
Hormonal imbalancesIrregular or absent menstrual cycles, growth retardation
Cardiac issuesBradycardia, hypotension, and potential heart failure
OsteoporosisDecreased bone density leading to increased fracture risk


Diagnostic Criteria

The diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa requires a thorough assessment and can be made based on the following criteria as per the DSM-5:

  1. Restriction of Energy Intake: Persistent restriction of energy intake leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, and physical health.
  2. Intense Fear of Gaining Weight: Intense fear of gaining weight or persistent behavior to avoid gaining weight.
  3. Disturbed Body Perception: Disturbance in the way one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.

Assessment Tools

Several standardized tools such as the Eating Disorder Examination (EDE) and SCOFF questionnaire can be used to assess the symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa.


Therapeutic Interventions

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Focused on changing distorted thought patterns and behaviors.
  2. Family-Based Therapy (FBT): Emphasizes family involvement in treatment, particularly in adolescents.
  3. Nutritional Counseling: Essential to restore healthy eating patterns and nutritional status.


No medications are specifically approved for Anorexia Nervosa, but some may be used to treat comorbid conditions like anxiety or depression.

Cultural Perspectives

Anorexia Nervosa is predominantly observed in Western societies but is also emerging in non-Western cultures. This section explores how cultural factors influence the perception and treatment of this disorder.

Western Perspectives

In Western cultures, societal pressure to conform to a thin ideal is a significant contributor to Anorexia Nervosa. Media and peer influence often exacerbate these pressures.

Non-Western Perspectives

In non-Western societies, the emergence of Anorexia Nervosa is often linked to rapid urbanization and the influence of Western media. Cultural values and beliefs may also shape the understanding and approach to treatment.


Anorexia Nervosa is a complex and often devastating disorder that requires a multifaceted approach to understanding and treatment. From its genetic underpinnings to the cultural pressures that may exacerbate its development, it represents an intersection of biological, psychological, and social factors. Continued research and culturally sensitive approaches to treatment are vital to supporting those affected by this disorder.


[1] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.

[2] Hudson, J. I., Hiripi, E., Pope, H. G., & Kessler, R. C. (2007). The prevalence and correlates of eating disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Biological Psychiatry, 61(3), 348-358.

[3] Smink, F. R. E., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2012). Epidemiology of eating disorders: incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports, 14(4), 406-414.

[4] Fairburn, C. G., & Harrison, P. J. (2003). Eating disorders. The Lancet, 361(9355), 407-416.

Anthropologist Vasundhra - Author and Anthroholic

Vasundhra, an anthropologist, embarks on a captivating journey to decode the enigmatic tapestry of human society. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity, she unravels the intricacies of social phenomena, immersing herself in the lived experiences of diverse cultures. Armed with an unwavering passion for understanding the very essence of our existence, Vasundhra fearlessly navigates the labyrinth of genetic and social complexities that shape our collective identity. Her recent publication unveils the story of the Ancient DNA field, illuminating the pervasive global North-South divide. With an irresistible blend of eloquence and scientific rigor, Vasundhra effortlessly captivates audiences, transporting them to the frontiers of anthropological exploration.

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