How Does Anorexia Develop?

Woman sits in her kitchen and looks stressed.

If you eat all three meals every day and sometimes have a snack and occasionally a dessert, you’re probably wondering: how does anorexia take over?

After all, even though what we eat may be a choice, eating feels basically involuntary. And just not eating? That seems beyond difficult, if not impossible.

Regardless, teens and young adults across the country struggle with anorexia. Why?

Today we’ll look at how a person goes from eating normally to hardly eating at all. Our hope is that you’ll better understand your friend or family member with anorexia and that you’ll also encourage them to get help.

First Up: A Pop-Culture Example

Just weeks ago, songwriter Jax released a new single titled “Victoria’s Secret.” In it, she talks about the societal pressures many of us endured growing up—the insistence that there’s just one desirable female body type—and how these pressures gave way to her refusal to eat.

You can read an excerpt of the lyrics below:

God, I wish somebody would’ve told me when I was younger that all bodies aren’t the same.

Photoshop, itty bitty models on magazine covers, told me I was overweight.

I stopped eating, what a bummer. Can’t have carbs and a hot girl summer.

If I could go back and tell myself when I was younger, I’d say:

I know Victoria’s secret and girl you wouldn’t believe.

She’s an old man who lives in Ohio, making money off of girls like me.

Cashing in on body issues, selling skin and bones with big boobs.

I know Victoria’s secret. She was made up by a dude.

We encourage you to take her words and message to heart as we discuss how a person might develop anorexia.

How and Why Anorexia Develops

Anorexia usually, but not always, begins during adolescence. And most, but not all, people with anorexia are females. (1)

With these things in mind, the first and most obvious way a person develops anorexia is through unrealistic expectations about their own body as compared to societal standards. (2) We saw this in Jax’s song above. So let’s play that out for a moment.

When a teenage girl looks at herself in the mirror compared to what she sees on Instagram, she may begin to think that her life will be better if she can just get her body to match what she believes is the ideal.

She may even be a star student, great at achieving goals and doing more than what’s asked of her. All she needs to do now is apply an already-established strong work ethic to the task at hand, and perhaps she can look the way she wants to look.

Some women and men with anorexia may find their way into this eating disorder as they unconsciously work to control one area of life as a means of dealing with other less-controllable aspects of life—either in the present or in the past. (1)

And finally, some people are simply more biologically predisposed to developing anorexia, with a weaker hunger signal and an easier time coping with less food. (3) In this case, a strict diet could accidentally morph into an eating disorder.

Regardless of how anorexia develops, the truth is that a person with anorexia will need help to live a long and healthy life. We’d love to be that help. You can call us today at 205-409-4220 or complete our contact form.

Resources

  1. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/anorexia-nervosa/understanding-anorexia-basics
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anorexia-nervosa/symptoms-causes/syc-20353591
  3. https://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2020-03-12-how-brain-biology-promotes-starvation-in-patients-with-anorexia.aspx

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