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Psychological Factors Underlying Anorexia Nervosa Research Paper

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Eating disorders form the bulk of the society’s health concerns across individuals’ lifetime. Data from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) indicate that over twenty million individuals residing in the United States experience an eating disorder that entails excessive reduced food intake by individuals and weight loss driven by the unfounded fear of gaining weight (Crow 440).

The condition also occurs where individuals deny hunger as well as restrict energy and nutrients to levels that are minimal and inadequate to maintain the functioning of the normal body health and mass (Crow 440). Additionally, patients often develop the illusion of being fat, as well as a strong fear of adding heaviness.

In other words, anorexic patients exhibit excessive body dissatisfaction. Another common feature of anorexia nervosa entails purging as well as excess exercises through self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretics and the abuse of enemas to achieve weight loss.

Essentially, anorexia nervosa is more common in females compared to males (De la Rie 1512). Specifically, the disorder is often dominant in adolescence females in comparison to the males.

Individuals suffering from the eating disorder often endeavor to reduce weight always to the point of malnourishment. The people suffering from the disorder normally show signs of malnutrition due to self-imposed undernourishment that leads to harsh snags in various body organs.

Studies indicate that the dominant signs for patients experiencing the eating disorder encompass various symptoms, including the snub by patients to maintain the standard body mass index for age, irregular menstrual cycles and the skin becomes unhealthy as well as turns yellow (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 780).

Additionally, the patients exhibit soft and fine hair developing on the body as well as being preoccupied with the content of calories and fats in food. Further, the patients keep on cutting down food intake in spite of being skinny.

Sings of depression, seclusion and swollen cheeks due to enlarged salivary glands emanating from unwarranted vomiting are normal to patients suffering from the disorder (Crow 440). Moreover, thinning, fatigue, mood swings, abdominal distensions and terrible breath are common among patients suffering from the eating disorder.

The eating disorder has several medical complications ranging from growth retardation due to chronic malnutrition and weight loss to pubertal delay resulting from the suppression of the growth hormones (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 780).

Anorexia nervosa can cause fatty infiltration of the liver, heart diseases and neurological disorders such as tremors as well as death. In fact, the eating disorder has unprecedented death rates considering psychological disorders (Crow 440). Therefore, the paper seeks to discuss the psychological causes and effects of anorexia nervosa (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 780).

Causes of anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is caused by various psychological conditions. In other words, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression are psychological factors that cause the eating disorder. In addition, perfectionism, impulsivity, low self-esteem, hopelessness, inhibition as well as trouble in handling emotions are serious psychological concerns causing anorexia nervosa.

Low self-esteem

The scales to which individuals assess own worth to gratify ambitions commence from childhood. However, the self-esteem gets harder and gains force during adolescence periods. The puberty stage is critical considering the self-esteem factor.

In this epoch, the adolescents are looking for individuality. Therefore, in the event that that the process of searching for identity goes off-center, the adolescents many develop negative sensations regarding identity leading to low self-worth (De la Rie 1513).

Based on this hypothesis, studies indicate that one’s confidence can occasion a number of psychological conditions, including anorexia nervosa. Several types of research have empirically proved the significant tasks played by low self-esteem regarding the numerous multi-factorial theories of the etiology of eating disorders.

The utilization of various questionnaires and interview showed that low self-worth is frequent in patients with eating disorders. In fact, in several occasions, the connection between anorexia nervosa and low self-esteem leads to the conclusion that low sense of worth is an essential precondition for disordered eating habits.

Impractical high ambitions, insecurity, negative mood, depression, poor body image and poor adaptation skills are components of low self-esteem (Crow 439). The attributes are prevalent in individuals exhibiting anorexia nervosa.

Coping with emotions and anxiety

The thoughts and behaviors applied by individuals in the management and bearing both the internal and external requirements often cause eating disorders among individuals. In essence, handling of emotions is considered a multidimensional model that comprises problem-solving situations and responses to self-oriented conditions, including emotional reactions as well as self-preoccupation.

Studies postulate that patients exhibiting anorexia nervosa often face numerous hurdles in managing unease. In principle, the poor management of stress leads to eating disorders in individuals (Crow 440).

Considering eating disordered individuals and normal eating persons, studies indicate differing anxiety management skills. Actually, individuals with anorexia nervosa exhibit higher degrees handling emotions. Moreover, researches assert that patients with the eating disorder have active stress management strategies.

Hopelessness and inadequacy

Millions of individuals over the world are affected by depression. Hopelessness leads to unrelenting alterations in an individual’s mood, behavior as well as feelings. When individuals undergo depression and inadequacy, their education, employment and family lives are affected (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 779).

In addition, individuals are habitually unable to give attention to work, food, feel culpable and often become bad-tempered over petty issues. Other signs of hopelessness involve loss of energy, loss of concentration in sex, restlessness as well as thoughts of suicide and death. Depression deprives people of the pleasure and enthusiasm as well as appetite thereby leading to eating disorders.


Many studies postulate strong correlation between perfectionism and anorexia nervosa. In fact, the blend of precision and eating disorders is injurious to individuals’ health (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 781). Actually, the quest of idealistic objectives stemming from the conviction of the existence of a state of excellence is highly linked to eating disorders.

In most cases, perfectionist individuals are often self-critical as well as reliant on achievements to gain pleasure. For example, in occasions where perfectionist individuals identify impracticable values for physical charm as well as beauty in the society, the likelihood of unrealistic goals is imminent (De la Rie 1522).

As such, the individuals develop anorexia nervosa due to the desire of ideal body. Such unrealistic goals always progress to anorexia nervosa because individuals associate consumption of any food for the failure of achieving the impracticable goals.

Scientific studies assert the strong connection existing between perfectionism and anorexia nervosa (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 780). First, a study examining the function of perfectionism as phenotypic attributes in eating disorder on women found that anorexic women are more likely to crave presentation of precision by hiding emotions and covering up imperfections.


Individuals diagnosed with anorexia nervosa normally exhibit spontaneous actions, including substance abuse, stealing, and sexual promiscuity and suicide attempts. To begin with, people who involve themselves in stealing practices have high tendencies of disordered eating. Additionally, pragmatic studies put forward that stealing is strongly connected to individuals suffering from eating disorder (De la Rie, 1519).

Concerning sexual activity and perceptions of sex, studies show that impulsive women are more sexually active and have higher experiences of eating disorder. Further, researches assert that individuals who exhibit signs of anorexia nervosa epitomize elevated levels of sexual intercourse (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 780).

In addition, the study showed that individuals obsessed with the consumption of extremely low amounts of calories had high masturbation rates of recurrence.


Researches show coexistence between spirituality and anorexia nervosa. To begin with, spirituality refers to the distinctive, creative and collective aspect in which the inner subjective awareness of people and within communities and social classes relate to in living life (Levine and Smolak 80). Studies have proven that anorexic patients often exhibit spiritual actions.

For example, anorexia nervosa patients always show several spiritual signs, including being ascetic and having difficulties in maintaining relations with other members of the society (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 780).

Actually, studies also postulate that anorexic patients believe that in treatment of the eating disorder, their religious beliefs must be taken into account (Levine and Smolak 80). To counter such beliefs, psychotherapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and family therapy are applied to deal with the anorexic patients’ spiritual beliefs surrounding food intake.

Available literature traces eating disorders to holy anorexics and religious ascetics who showed self-denial through starvation. The act of self-denial was in response to the labeling of greed as a deadly sin. As such, people starved themselves to allow purification of the spirit.

Search for power

Search for power is also critical in the analysis of causes of anorexia nervosa. For instance, in the case of Catherine of Siena, going without food was the only way of showing her disapproval for her intended marriage ceremony. In other words, virgins gained power, freedom and respect among members of the society (Levine and Smolak 78).

As such, Catherine was able to remain virgin as well as chase her dream of becoming one of the theologists in the convent. In fact, fasting was considered as a form of control that gave powers back to individuals. The case is similar to the various fundamental factors in anorexia nervosa currently.

Effects of anorexia nervosa

The highest morbidity as well as mortality rates experienced in psychiatric disorders emanate from eating disorders. Specifically, anorexia nervosa accounts for approximately eight percent of mortality rates. Data from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders show that the rate of prevalence of anorexia nervosa is approximately 0.3% among women (Levine and Smolak 80).

The occurrence rates of anorexia nervosa have had far-reaching psychological effects on individuals. First, anorexia leads to alteration in cognitive improvement (De la Rie, 1519). In reality, studies reveal that patients suffering from anorexia nervosa exhibit complexities in learning institutions as well as communication with colleagues and parents.

In addition, deficiency of calories and nutrients in diet and disproportionate and persistent training often cause excess sleep (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 780). Further, dispossessions of cognitive and social stimuli are also effects of anorexia nervosa as individuals’ social events in school and with friends are always neglected.

Rise of mortality ratios has been a common effect of anorexia nervosa due to suicide attempts (Crow 439). In reality, suicidal ideation is widespread among people with the eating disorder. In addition, death arises due to starvation as well as arrhythmias.

Most importantly, the likelihood of recovery from excessive starvation always shows an inverse relationship with the severity of weight loss together with psychiatric disorders, including depression as well as personality disorders.

Moreover, teenage females with anorexia nervosa characterized by weakness and fatigue often face difficulty in managing the switch of puberty to adulthood, recognition of puberty transformations, peer group involvement and sovereignty(Crow 439). In essence, the vicious cycle of the eating disorder contributes to starvation as individuals undergo extreme exercising to attest distinctiveness, independence and acceptance from peers.

Anorexia nervosa results into medical complications that have adverse psychological effects on the patients (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 782).

For instance, the loss of subcutaneous fat tissues, orthostatic hypotension and impaired menstrual function as well as hair loss present the victims of anorexia nervosa with psychological torture, including feelings of anxiety, depression and difficulties in managing painful emotions (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 780).

In fact, when the patients undertake excessive exercise and restrict food consumption in order to remain young, stress is often experienced.

Individuals with anorexia nervosa often exhibit signs of despair because such people develop feelings of unimportance in the society (Le Grange and Lock 76). In addition, anorexia nervosa leads to the development of self-destructive actions such as self-mutilation.

In other words, individuals with the eating disorder often hurt themselves either through burns or through cuts as a way of managing agonizing sensations. Withdrawals from circumstances concerning food and relationship are common to the anorexic.

In fact, the anorexic patients are repeatedly guarded on the amount of food they consume and get exasperated whenever people comment on their weight (Le Grange and Lock 77). Moreover, lackadaisical attitude towards activities formerly enjoyed is common among anorexic patients.


Anorexia nervosa continues to affect millions of individuals across the globe and the effects are greatly felt (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 781). The eating disorder is characterized by excessive restricted food consumption as well as weight loss. Low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsivity, hopelessness and anxiety are some psychological factors that cause anorexia nervosa (Levine and Smolak. 80).

The effects of the eating disorder range from changes in cognitive development to withdrawals from circumstances concerning food and relationship. In order to deal with the effects of the disorder, professional treatment comprising medical care and mental health care are significant.

In addition, public policies should be put in place to tackle the menace of anorexia nervosa. For instance, improvement in screening and treatment of eating disorders as well as increased support for the prevention and intervention initiatives aimed at providing health care settings to communities and schools to address concerns of eating disorders is critical (Haines and Neumark-Sztainer 781).

Most importantly, proper comprehension of the issues raised by individuals with anorexia nervosa is critical to the physicians. As such, the utilization of all-around methods in handling anorexia nervosa is necessary.

The psychological aspects of treating anorexia nervosa should aim at improving the psychological nature of the patients (Le Grange and Lock 77). The physicians should comprehend the diet and social history of the patients before making any anorexic treatment.

Works Cited

Crow, Stang. “Medical complications of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.” Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 19.4 (2006): 438-443. Print.

De la Rie, Sau M. “Quality of life and eating disorders.” Quality of Life Research, 14.6 (2005): 1511-1522. Print.

Haines, Jess and Dianne Neumark-Sztainer. “Prevention of eating disorders and obesity: A consideration of shared risk factors.” Health Education Research, 21.6 (2006): 770-782. Print.

Le Grange, Daniel and ‎James Lock. “Anorexia nervosa: The cost of long-term disability.” Eating & Weight Disorders, 8.1 (2011): 76-79. Print.

Levine, Micheal and Linda Smolak. The Prevention of Eating Problems and Eating Disorders: Theory, Research, and Practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006. Print.

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