Is Anorexia a Lifestyle Choice, an Illness, or Both?

Eating DisorderAnorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by extremely restricted eating due to an intense fear of gaining weight. People with this disorder may perceive themselves as overweight even when they’re fatally underweight.

There is a debate on whether this physical starvation in a relentless pursuit of extreme thinness is a disease or a lifestyle choice. Is everyone in an anorexia treatment center ill or just trapped in a series of bad decisions?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the commonly held view that anorexia and other eating disorders are a lifestyle choice is flawed. The Institute clarifies that these disorders are “serious and often fatal” diseases.

A Mental and Physical Illness

Anorexia is indeed both a mental illness and physical disease. The disorder has complicated physical and psychological aspects. For instance, physical starvation may cause other anorexia symptoms such as preoccupation with food, depression, and low self-esteem. Equally, inflexible thought patterns may bring about an urge to eat less. Still, hormonal responses to starvation may create an addiction to a ‘hunger high’; societal feedback may encourage weight loss; starvation may interfere with appetite and food preferences through bodily changes; and physical changes may consequently affect self-perception and social identity.

Lifestyle Choices and Anorexia

Decisions may also play some role in the development of anorexia. For instance, if eating disorders run in your family or you have friends who have eating disorders, pro-active decision making is necessary. Life-saving decisions here could include going the extra mile to eat appropriate portions of healthy meals and seeking help when you have problems.

Anorexia is undoubtedly an illness. However, personal decisions may also contribute to the development or make the disorder worse. You can reduce the potency of genetic and environmental factors that put you at risk of anorexia. Decide to take a bite and swallow. If you need the motivation to make the healthy choice, talk to a health professional or a therapist. If you still slip into anorexia, you can also get help in an anorexia treatment center.