Yes, anorexia is a psychological disorder, also called a mental health condition. A psychological disorder is characterized as a condition that produces a pattern of mental health and behavioral symptoms that affect many facets of life.
People grappling with anorexia compulsively restrict their diet. As a result, they may not receive enough nutrients for the body to produce energy. When the body lacks vitamins and minerals, it breaks down its tissue for energy. A consistent lack of sufficient nutrients can also change the brain and cause people to act in ways they usually wouldn’t.
Psychological disorders affect mood and behaviors. At times, unhealthy thoughts control people with anorexia. They can experience low self-esteem that causes them to feel undeserving of food. They may place an unhealthy value on thinness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the emotional symptoms of anorexia include:
- Negative mood
- Social withdrawal
- A negative or distorted body image
- A fear of eating in public or gaining weight
Anorexia is also associated with suicidal thoughts or self-harm behaviors — a telltale symptom of a mental health disorder. A 2016 study published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment examined 47 girls hospitalized for anorexia or bulimia.
Among the sample:
- 72 percent had depressive symptoms
- 60 percent exhibited suicidal behavior
- 49 percent intentionally harmed themselves
- 23 percent had substance abuse problems
- 11 percent had obsessive-compulsive symptoms
- 9 percent had an anxiety disorder
According to the study’s authors, eating disorders like anorexia are associated with an increased risk of suicidal and self-harm behaviors among adolescent girls. The report also indicated that anorexia can lead to relationship problems — another symptom of mental health disorders.
Like other psychological conditions, anorexia can be a long-term disorder. Without treating anorexia, the eating disorder can worsen or lead to the development of other mental health problems, like anxiety and depression.
NAMI. “Eating Disorders.” (n.d) Accessed February 19, 2019.
Koutek, J., Kocourkova, J., & Dudova, I. “Suicidal behavior and self-harm in girls with eating disorders.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment. 2016. Accessed February 19, 2019.
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