Anorexia nervosa

Medical Specialties: Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry

Clinical Definition

Anorexia nervosa is a psychological eating disorder in which a person has an intense fear of gaining weight and limits calories to the point of near starvation to attain a below-normal body weight. 

In Our Own Words

Individuals with anorexia nervosa suffer from a distorted body image, typically coupled with feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. To maintain their below-normal body weight, individuals with the disorder severely restrict their eating behavior.


Most prevalent in women, anorexia nervosa often starts during adolescence. In addition to body dysmorphia, anorexics tend to be ocially awkward, depressed and moody.


Untreated, anorexia nervosa can lead to death and other serious health complications, including gastrointestinal, cardiovasular and endocrine disorders and osteoporosis.

Relevant Conditions
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Malabsorption
  • Major depression
  • Social phobia
Common Types
  • Restricting food
  • Binge eating and purging
Side Effects
  • Below-normal body weight, emaciation
  • Fear of gaining weight or being fat
  • Amenorrhea (i.e., absence of menstruation)
  • Brittle hair or hair loss
  • Symptoms related to vomiting (if the purging type)
Share this article
  • Harvard Health Publications. “Medical Dictionary of Health Terms: A-C.” Accessed September 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). “Guidelines for School Health Programs to Promote Lifelong Healthy Eating.” Accessed October 2013.
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. “Anorexia Nervosa.” Accessed October 2013.
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