Anorexia nervosa, commonly referred to as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image, leading to severe restriction of food intake and excessive weight loss. People with anorexia often have a relentless pursuit of thinness, an intense preoccupation with food and weight, and engage in behaviors to control their weight, such as excessive exercise or self-induced vomiting.

The causes of anorexia are multifactorial and can involve a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological, and sociocultural factors.

Here are some factors associated with the causes of anorexia:

1. Genetics: There is evidence that genetic factors play a role in the development of anorexia. Having a family history of eating disorders or mental health conditions can increase the risk of developing the disorder.

2. Psychological factors: Anorexia is often associated with underlying psychological issues, such as low self-esteem, perfectionism, anxiety, and a desire for control. Individuals with anorexia may use food and weight control as a way to cope with emotional distress or as a means of gaining a sense of control over their lives.

3. Sociocultural factors: Societal and cultural pressures that emphasize thinness and place value on appearance can contribute to the development of anorexia. Media portrayals of unrealistic body ideals and societal emphasis on dieting and weight loss can influence individuals, especially vulnerable adolescents, to strive for thinness.

4. Environmental factors: Certain environmental factors can contribute to the development of anorexia, including a history of trauma, dysfunctional family dynamics, or a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. These experiences can contribute to the development of disordered eating behaviors as a coping mechanism.

The treatment for anorexia involves a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the physical, psychological, and nutritional aspects of the disorder.

The most common types of treatment include:

1. Medical care: Individuals with anorexia often require medical monitoring to address any complications resulting from malnutrition, such as electrolyte imbalances, heart problems, or osteoporosis. Medical professionals may provide nutritional rehabilitation, manage any physical health issues, and monitor weight restoration.

2. Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, particularly specialized forms such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Enhanced Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT-E), is a cornerstone of anorexia treatment. These therapies help individuals challenge their distorted beliefs about weight, shape, and food, develop healthy coping strategies, and address underlying psychological factors contributing to the disorder.

3. Nutritional counselling: Registered dietitians or nutritionists can provide education and guidance to help individuals normalize their eating behaviours, establish a healthy relationship with food, and develop regular eating patterns. They may work alongside mental health professionals to support weight restoration and promote overall well-being.

4. Medication: While there are no specific medications approved for the treatment of anorexia, certain medications may be prescribed to manage comorbid conditions such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, which commonly coexist with anorexia.

5. Support groups and family involvement: Support groups, such as those facilitated by eating disorder organizations, can provide individuals with anorexia a sense of community, validation, and support. Involving family members in treatment can also be beneficial, as family-based therapy (FBT) has shown effectiveness in adolescents with anorexia.

Successful treatment of anorexia requires a long-term commitment, and individuals should work closely with a specialized treatment team that may include therapists, physicians, dietitians, and other healthcare professionals experienced in eating disorder treatment. The treatment approach is individualized and aims to address the unique needs and circumstances of each person.