Anorexia Nervosa

What it means to suffer from Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is a complex disorder, often caused by the overlap of medical and psychological issues. It is important to pay attention not only to body weight but also, and especially, to the control that the mind exercises over it.

In practice:

How to understand if the symptoms presented are related to anorexia nervosa?

(from: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5-TR), American Psychiatric Association (2022)."


As a consequence of restrictive behavior or excessive physical activity. It is calculated using Body Mass Index (BMI).

Fear of growing fat

Disconnected from the actual body figure (often objectively emaciated). This fear is expressed through behaviors such as very restrictive diets, excessive physical exercise, or elimination behaviors (self-induced vomiting, laxatives...)

Distorted body weight and shape evaluation

Despite patients not having problems in conceiving rationally the contradiction of their perceptions, they allow them to have a strong impact both on behaviors and emotions. There is often the mistaken assumption that thinness=beauty; thinness=personal value.

Study case:

Luca is a 19-year-old student in his second year of university. During his first year of university, Luca started running every day and joined an intensive training program at the university gym. As a result, he gradually began to lose weight. Meanwhile, Luca started a "diet" consisting of avoiding all fatty foods, not eating between meals, and trying to consume fixed portions of "healthy foods". On some days, Luca doesn't eat anything. In this way, he further reduced his weight, to the point where he is now well below the average for people of his age and height. Despite his thin appearance, he denies being underweight. In reality, Luca is terrified of becoming "fat" and refuses to make any effort to gain weight. Even Luca's relationship with his family has become strained. He feels that everything, including meeting friends, is becoming a challenging task, as his energy level is low and Luca has no motivation for anything other than more physical exercise.

(Adapted from Mond et al., 2011)