Anorexia nervosa causes

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It is clear that there is no single cause for anorexia and that it stems from a mixture of social, psychological and biological factors. Current research is commonly focused on explaining existing factors and uncovering new causes. However, there is considerable debate over how much each of the known causes contributes to the development of anorexia. In particular, the contribution of perceived media pressure on women to be thin has been especially contentious.[1]


  • The exact causes of anorexia nervosa are unknown.
  • Many factors probably are involved. Genes and hormones may play a role. Social attitudes promoting very thin body types may also be involved.
  • Family conflicts are no longer thought to contribute to this or other eating disorders.
  • Anorexia usually begins during the teen years or young adulthood. It is more common in females, but may also be seen in males. The disorder is seen mainly in white women who are high academic achievers and who have a goal-oriented family or personality.

Common Causes

The most common form of anorexia is simply satiation following the consumption of food. This happens in all normal humans and is called postprandial anorexia. Disorders that cause (harmful) anorexia include anorexia nervosa, severe depression, cancer, dementia, AIDS, and chronic renal failure and the use of certain drugs, particularly stimulants and narcotics. Environmentally induced disorders such as altitude sickness can also trigger an acute form of anorexia. Anorexia may also be seen in congestive heart failure, perhaps due to congestion of the liver with venous blood.

Although the presenting symptom (the one which prompts a patient to seek medical attention) in acute appendicitis is abdominal pain, patients virtually always experience anorexia as well, possibly accompanied by an early episode of vomiting.

Some medications, antidepressants for example, can have anorexia as a side effect. Most notoriously, however, chemicals that are a member of the phenethylamine family are known to have more intense anorectic properties. For this reason, many individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa may seek to use these medications to suppress appetite. Such prescription medications include Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, and Desoxyn. In some cases, these medications are prescribed to patients prior to undergoing an operation requiring general anesthesia. This is a prophylactic measure taken to ensure no food will back up into the esophagus and cause the patient to stop breathing during the procedure. [2] [3]

Causes by Organ System

Cardiovascular Congestive heart failureHypercalcemia
Chemical / poisoning ChromotherapyRetinoidTheobromine
Dermatologic Sporotrichosis
Drug Side Effect AciclovirAmphetamine Amphotericin BAntidepressantsBenzodiazepineBenzylpiperazineCalcitriolChromotherapyCocaineDextromethamphetamineDextromethylphenidateDiacetylmorphineEnfuvirtideFluconazoleGold saltsHydralazineKetorolacLeptoprinMethylphenidateMirtazapineModafinilMoxifloxacinPipradrolPyrazinamideSt John's wortStimulantsTheobromineValaciclovirZiconotideZopiclone
Ear Nose Throat Mastoiditis
Endocrine Anorexia NervosaBinge eatingBulimia nervosaCarotenodermiaDiabetic neuropathy
Environmental Acute radiation syndrome
Gastroenterologic Acute fatty liver of pregnancyAnorexia nervosaAppendicitisBinge eatingColorectal cancerCrohn's DiseaseDefensive vomitingHepatitisHepatitis EHymenolepiasisHypervitaminosis DLábrea feverMilk-alkali syndromeSuperior mesenteric artery syndromeUlcerative colitis
Genetic Acute fatty liver of pregnancyCrohn's Disease
Hematologic Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Iatrogenic No underlying causes
Infectious Disease Acute viral nasopharyngitis (common cold)AIDSAstroviridaeChagas diseaseCommunity-acquired pneumoniaCryptosporidium parvumEncephalitisHepatitisHepatitis EMumpsOropouche feverPneumoniaPott's diseaseRelapsing feverRhinovirus
Musculoskeletal / Ortho Mastoiditis
Neurologic Chronic fatigue syndromeCraniopharyngiomaDementiaEncephalitis
Nutritional / Metabolic No underlying causes
Obstetric/Gynecologic Acute fatty liver of pregnancy
Oncologic ChromotherapyColorectal cancerCraniopharyngiomaNon-Hodgkin lymphoma
Opthalmologic No underlying causes
Overdose / Toxicity Acute radiation syndromeChromotherapyCocaineGold saltsHypervitaminosis DVitamin A
Psychiatric Anorexia nervosaBinge eatingBorderline personality disorderBulimia nervosaClinical depressionDefensive vomitingDementiaDepressionHangoverObsessive-compulsive disorderOpioid dependencyOrthorexia nervosaPanic disorder
Pulmonary Acute viral nasopharyngitis (common cold)Atypical pneumoniaCommunity-acquired pneumoniaPneumonia
Renal / Electrolyte Chronic renal failureDiabetic neuropathyHangoverHypercalcemia
Rheum / Immune / Allergy Chronic fatigue syndrome
Sexual AIDS
Trauma No underlying causes
Urologic Chronic renal failureDiabetic neuropathyHypercalcemia
Miscellaneous Chronic mountain sickness • High altitude

Causes in Alphabetical Order


  1. Tiggemann M and Pickering AS. (1996) Role of television in adolescent women's body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness Int J Eat Disord, Sep;20(2):199-203.
  2. Sailer, Christian, Wasner, Susanne. Differential Diagnosis Pocket. Hermosa Beach, CA: Borm Bruckmeir Publishing LLC, 2002:77 ISBN 1591032016
  3. Kahan, Scott, Smith, Ellen G. In A Page: Signs and Symptoms. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2004:68 ISBN 140510368X