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Anorexia Nervosa is a psychological eating disorder. Anorexics tend to think that they are fat and overweight, although they are often underweight. Dieting and losing weight will become a life-long goal for people with anorexia. They might exercise excessively, eat less, and take medications, such as laxatives or diet pills to help them lose weight.  Anorexia usually develops during adolescence and early adulthood.


  • Genetic: Perhaps surprisingly, anorexia can have a hereditary component. New research has found that there are certain brain patterns – passed on in a woman’s DNA – which can increase the risk of her falling prey to an eating disorder. Preliminary studies also suggest that a gene located on chromosome 1p may also be involved.
  • Brain Dysfunction: There are studies that suggest that a certain brain dysfunction, particularly in the hypothalamus, can cause anorexia. The hypothalamus is responsible for regulating the metabolic process of the body. Another study suggests that the unbalancing of the neurotransmitters of the brain, the ones responsible for regulating the processes of the body, may influence the development of anorexia.
  • Childhood Problems: Children who have suffered a hard childhood or those who were mistreated, ridiculed, and those who experience trauma especially regarding their appearance and personality are more likely to develop anorexia. Anorexia begins when these children try to become thinner and more beautiful, according to the norms in the media, to boost their own confidence. They will often have a distorted body image and think that they are fatter than they actually are.


  • Secrecy And Denial: This symptom of anorexia makes it hard for other people, even doctors, to diagnose anorexia. They will try to maintain normal routines, and appear to be eating normally, although they may eat laxatives or dispose of any food covertly. They are unlikely to seek help because they themselves do not believe that they have a problem.
  • Weight Loss: A symptom of anorexia is that they continue to lose weight at an alarming rate. They will lose weight because they do not eat foods or will just eat a very small amount of food that is not enough for the body’s needs.
  • Fear Of Gaining Weight: Most people with anorexia are afraid of getting fat. They will avoid foods that have high-calorie content or even healthy, nutritious foods. Anorexics often see weight gain as a personal failure and a loss of control.
  • Distorted Self-Perception: People with anorexia usually think that they are fat regardless of their actual body weight.

Treatment for anorexia nervosa focuses on three areas. First, restoring the person to a healthy weight; second- treating the psychological disorders related to the illness, and lastly, eliminating those thoughts that originally led to the disordered eating.

  • Weight Gain Programs: Weight gain programs are the first stage of treatment because the anorexic may be dangerously thin. These programs are designed to help these people to gain weight slowly. Any sudden weight gain can cause anorexia to relapse. Depending on the severity, these programs may be out-or in-patient. Usually, family and friend support is an important component of treatment.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is a general term for a way of treating anorexia by talking about your condition and related issues with a mental health provider. Psychotherapy is also known as therapy, talk therapy, counseling or psychosocial therapy. A type of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to treat anorexia. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and eliminate distorting thoughts. An important negative belief that cognitive behavioral therapy addresses is the anorexic’s perception of their own body image and their ideas of the ideal weight.
  • Medications:  Anorexia is a complex, psychological problem and treatment is usually multi-faceted. Medications such as Olanzapine have shown to help raise the body mass index and reduce obsessionality, including obsessional thoughts about food. Mood stabilizers or anti-depressants may help deal with any underlying depression.

Alternative Therapies

  • The mainstay in the treatment of eating disorders of the kind of Anorexia is replenishing the anorexic back to a healthy state. Medication and psychotherapy is evidently effective in reaching this goal. However, certain alternative therapy approaches have been found to be helpful in treating anorexia, particularly reducing the anxiety. [1]
  • Eating disorders are often complemented with extensive nutritional deficiencies which can be treated by including certain dietary supplements [2]. A dose of multivitamin in combination with omega 3 fatty acids can help add balance to the lost proteins and antioxidants from the body. Coenzyme Q10 can help in improving the immunity as well as muscular support [3].
  • A 50 mg dose of 5-HTP (5-hrdroxytrytophan) can benefit in improving serotonin levels and in turn improve mood and fight anxiety. Probiotic supplements can be useful for maintaining gastrointestinal and immune health [4].
  • Ayurveda defines anorexia as “Aaruchi”, a type of eating disorder associated with mental imbalance and a sense of self-deprivation. Although no herbs have been scientifically proven to treat anorexia, some may be helpful to calm nerves, stimulate appetite and improve blood profile. Fenugreek, catnip and milk thistle have found to be helpful in stimulating appetite, calm nerves and soothe the digestive system along with improving the health of liver [5].
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches eating disorders by targeting different stimulants and factors. Certain Chinese herbs and formulations have evident benefits in addressing the symptoms associated with anorexia. Eluthero ginseng, St.John’s Wort, Rhodiola and Dandelion root herb are some medicines which are helpful in treating the stress and anxiety related to anorexia [6]. Rhodiola enhances serotonin transport to the brain which helps in reducing anorexia related anxiety and depression. Eluthero ginseng helps in improving endocrine and adrenal function and also builds stamina and endurance which is much needed for anorexia patients while dandelion root helps in strengthening the liver and enhancing the immune system.
  • Homeopathy targets to reach the core of this compulsive abstinence from food, looking from the perspective of the whole body. Some homeopathic remedies can help in relieving the mental chaos associated with anorexia. Arsenicum album, Ignatia, Lycopodium, phosphoric acid, Platina etc. can be beneficial in relieving the obsessive personality traits associated with eating disorders [7].
  • Use of acupuncture in treating eating disorders requires substantial studies to prove its effectiveness. Although a metabolic hormone called leptin (regulatory hormone), which plays an important role in reproduction and women’s menstrual cycle, is found to be low in anorexic women [8,9]. This explains why many anorexic females often stop getting their periods. Studies carried in China, looked at an acupoint which affects the serum leptin levels in anorexics. The study found that working on this acupoint can increase the level of serum leptin which can help in establishing the use of acupuncture in anorexia and bulimia treatment [10] .
  • Aromatherapy with regard to use of certain essential oils—can help to change the emotional connection of the patient with food. Certain oils, especially of the citrus family, help to stimulate the digestive juices thereby increasing the appetite which can be beneficial in eating disorders [11].
  • Hypnotherapy forms a part of an integrated treatment program for anorexia which in combination with other remedies can help in speedy recovery to a healthy state of mind and body. Hypnosis can help anorexic patients in strengthening their emotional and wellness quotient along with boosting their self-confidence. This spurge in emotional quotient can initiate healthy eating, improved self-esteem and body image [12,13,14].
  • Yoga involves various aspects to help the mind and body heal from within and rise above the trauma and worries surrounding us. Yogic poses focus on mindfulness, deep breathing and relaxing asanas making the patient aware of his/her bodily functions and feelings [15]. Meditation can help the patient to learn and understand the messages from his own body and focus on inner qualities than outward appearance. Mindful yoga also helps in activating certain areas of cerebral cortex which can help in diminishing the impulsive nature related to anorexia keeping irrational thoughts away [16,17].

Anorexia is hard to prevent especially for people who have a family history of being anorexic. Creating a safe, loving and accepting atmosphere in the family is a good start, although anorexics come from every walk of life and family situation.

  • Encourage Healthy Self-Esteem: Positive encouragement is essential to constructing a child’s core sense of self. Parents should avoid negative criticism about beauty and health, even if they were pertaining to other people. A child may hold onto such comments, acting on them in subsequent years. If your child is overweight, avoid telling them they are fat, and instead try to cook healthy, nutritious meals.
  • Loving Family Meals: Mealtime is a time for the family to get together and for you to impart your own healthy eating habits to your child. Children often learn by following example: so make time to take time over meals and encourage a healthy appreciation for nutrition and food.

Anorexia Nervosa is a psychological disorder relating to issues of control. Although it can have many and interrelated causes, new research suggests there may also be an inherited component. Anorexics can come from all walks of life, but encouraging a child’s healthy relationship towards food and nutrition may also help prevent this complex and challenging condition

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