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- Anorexia nervosa facts
- What is anorexia nervosa?
- Who is at risk for anorexia nervosa?
- What causes anorexia nervosa?
- How is anorexia nervosa diagnosed?
- What are anorexia symptoms and signs (psychological and behavioral)?
- What are anorexia symptoms, signs, and complications (physical)?
- What is the treatment for anorexia nervosa?
- What is the prognosis (outcome) of anorexia nervosa?
- How can anorexia nervosa be prevented?
- The future of anorexia nervosa
- Where can a person get help for anorexia nervosa?
Quick GuideEating Disorders Pictures Slideshow: Understanding Binge Eating, Anorexia and Bulimia
What causes anorexia nervosa?
At this time, no definite cause of anorexia nervosa has been determined. However, research within the medical and psychological fields continues to explore possible causes.
Studies suggest that a genetic (inherited) component may play a more significant role in determining a person's susceptibility to anorexia than was previously thought. Researchers are attempting to identify the particular gene or genes that might affect a person's tendency to develop this disorder, and preliminary studies suggest that a gene located at chromosome 1p seems to be involved in determining a person's susceptibility to anorexia nervosa.
Other evidence had pinpointed a dysfunction in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus (which regulates certain metabolic processes), as contributing to the development of anorexia. Other studies have suggested that imbalances in neurotransmitter (brain chemicals involved in signaling and regulatory processes) levels in the brain may occur in people suffering from anorexia.
Feeding problems as an infant, a general history of under-eating, and maternal depressive symptoms tend to be risk factors for developing anorexia. Other personal characteristics that can predispose an individual to the development of anorexia include a high level of negative feelings and perfectionism. For many individuals with anorexia, the destructive cycle begins with the pressure to be thin and attractive. A poor self-image compounds the problem. People who suffer from any eating disorder are more likely than others to have been the victim of childhood abuse.
While some professionals remain of the opinion that family discord and high demands from parents can put a person at risk for developing this disorder, the increasing evidence against the idea that families cause anorexia has mounted to such an extent that professional mental-health organizations no longer ascribe to that theory. Possible factors that protect against the development of anorexia include high maternal body mass index (BMI) as well as high self-esteem.