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Anorexia Nervosa

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

UBC PATHS Blog Post: Jan 8, 2023

Anorexia, meaning the loss of appetite, is an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with weight and food. This results in excessive weight loss and potentially a life-threatening self-starvation behavior. People with anorexia nervosa may use extreme exercise methods and highly restrictive eating limitations to control their weight, as it may give them a sense of control or security.

Causes of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Internal traits including personality, emotions, genetics

  • Environmental factors such as social attitudes and family influences

  • Sports including ballet, bodybuilding, figure skating, gymnastics, modeling, etc. that focus on body shape and size are especially at higher risk

Effects and Symptoms

  • Physical symptoms:

    • Extreme weight loss

    • Abnormally low BMI

    • Fatigue and dizziness

    • Fragile hair

    • Irregular heart rhythm

    • Low blood pressure

  • Behavioral symptoms:

    • Severe food intake restriction

    • Overexercise

    • Self-induced vomiting

    • Social withdrawal

    • Repeated weighing/checking of body size due to fear of weight gain


  • Reducing the effects of anorexia nervosa can take a long time due to negative ideologies and feelings towards food, or even feelings of shame and remorse that prevent reaching out for help

    • One of the main ways to ensure a constant path to recovery for anorexia is to seek professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist, along with a nutritionist to learn and enforce healthy eating habits

    • Depending on the severity of the situation, hospitalization may be required if anorexic eating behavior has occurred for prolonged periods of time and is detrimental to the patient’s health

    • A physician can be helpful to visit to ensure the required calories are met to return to a healthy weight, and of course, family and friends will be the biggest help to motivate and regulate eating behaviors

    • Anorexia is linked to many other disorders such as depression, thus alleviating those symptoms with antidepressants may be helpful

Did You Know?

  • 0.9% of women and 0.3% of men will have anorexia at some point during their life

  • Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental health condition – 10% of all patients with anorexia will die due to the disease or related effects

  • An estimated 1 million Canadians meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder

Connection to Students

  • Students with eating disorders may have either, or both, physical and behavioral issues such as:

    • Lack of focus or concentration

    • Decline in ability to perform in sport as well as their classmates

    • Choose to spend more time alone

    • Prone to more illnesses due to a weakened immune system

    • Spending a lot of time perfecting every task / assignment

    • Hiding their thin bodies by wearing loose / baggy clothes


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