Why Anorexia Is Viewed as an Eating Disorder?


Anorexia nervosa, commonly referred to as anorexia, is a serious and often misunderstood eating disorder. This disorder has drawn attention in the medical and psychological communities for its complex nature and profound impact on those affected. In this article, we will delve into the reasons why anorexia is classified as an eating disorder, understanding its characteristics, symptoms, and societal implications.

Why Anorexia Is Viewed as an Eating Disorder?

Anorexia is viewed as an eating disorder because it involves an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body weight and shape. Individuals with anorexia often see themselves as overweight, even if they are underweight. They may weigh themselves frequently, eat very restricted amounts of food, and avoid certain foods or food groups that they perceive as fattening. In the South African context, anorexia can be influenced by social pressures and media portrayals of thinness, leading to a relentless pursuit of extreme thinness. The condition goes beyond just dieting and can lead to severe physical and mental health problems, including malnutrition, heart problems, and depression. Theoretical support for understanding anorexia comes from cognitive-behavioural theories that highlight how distorted thoughts and beliefs about body weight and shape drive restrictive eating behaviours. Examples in South Africa, like awareness campaigns and treatment centres, reflect a growing understanding of anorexia as a serious and complex mental health condition.

Understanding Anorexia Nervosa

  1. Definition and Overview: Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight, leading to self-starvation, extreme thinness, and an obsessive pursuit of thinness. It’s more than just a diet or a phase; it’s a severe mental health disorder that requires professional treatment.
  2. Psychological Factors: Anorexia often stems from underlying psychological issues such as low self-esteem, perfectionism, or trauma. These factors can contribute to a distorted body image and an obsessive need to control body weight and appearance.
  3. Physical Manifestations: The physical symptoms of anorexia include extreme weight loss, fatigue, dizziness, and other health issues related to malnutrition. These symptoms are often the result of a persistent refusal to eat enough to maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Societal Influences: Cultural pressures, media portrayal of thin ideals, and social norms can exacerbate anorexia, especially among adolescents. In societies that emphasize thinness as a standard of beauty, individuals may feel driven to extreme measures to fit these ideals.

Why It’s Classified as an Eating Disorder

  1. Impact on Eating Habits and Behavior: Anorexia directly affects an individual’s eating habits and behavior, leading to restrictive eating, skipping meals, and an irrational fear of certain foods or calories. These behaviours align with the criteria for an eating disorder.
  2. Connection with Body Image and Self-perception: People with anorexia often have a distorted body image, perceiving themselves as overweight even when they are underweight. This distorted self-perception is a hallmark of eating disorders.
  3. Long-term Health Risks and Complications: Anorexia can lead to severe health problems, including heart issues, bone loss, and digestive problems. The persistent denial of essential nutrients can have lasting effects on the body and mind.
  4. Treatment and Recovery Process: Treatment for anorexia involves a multidisciplinary approach, including therapy, nutrition education, and medical care. Recovery often requires addressing the underlying psychological issues and restoring healthy eating patterns.


Anorexia nervosa is viewed as an eating disorder due to its profound impact on eating habits, body image, and overall health. It’s a complex condition that intertwines psychological, physical, and social aspects. Understanding anorexia as an eating disorder helps professionals and support systems approach treatment with the recognition and empathy needed for recovery.

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