Category: Anorexia


This article discusses why dancers have such a high incidence of this disease.  I found this to be very interesting, especially since I was a dancer for most of my life.  I have seen this with dancers and it’s a very tough industry to be in so I figured that I would share this with all of you and see what your thoughts are regarding dancers and it’s relation to anorexia.  

     A ballet dancer is very aware of what her body looks like. At each practice she attends she wears skin-tight clothes and dances strenuously in front of large mirrors. A dancer has to look at herself for many hours in a day and this can cause a realization in the dancer. The general public may look in the mirror for a few minutes a day, hardly aware of what they really look like, but a dancer has no choice but to stand in front of a mirror and compare herself with others in the room. Seeing others thinner than she, could prompt a dancer to lose a few pounds to look as small as the other dancers in the room. As each one does this the room of dancers becomes very small. Anorexia seems like the best way to become the smallest dancer in the class.
     Another reason dancers would want to be small is that they have to jump high, spin fast and balance on their toes for extended periods of time. If a dancer weighs much or her weight changes frequently these steps are difficult to execute. A dancer has to know her body weight and be able to balance with no exterior problems. “Extra weight changes the balance of the body. It takes more strength to get up in the air, more time to do the move, and it’s harder to land.” (Chiu, 1996) A dancer also has to be conscious that a man has to be able to carry her for extended lifts and holds. Knowing she can dance better with a smaller weight convinces a dancer that she must stay thin at all costs.
     A dancer is usually seeking perfection in the steps that she executes. If she does not she will never reach a professionals level. Because a dancer is a perfectionist, she has to be flawless and better than her peers. A young anorexic dancer, when interviewed stated that, “she had something that other people wanted. They wanted to look like her and it was a sense of power, control and accomplishment that she could be like that.” (Dyson, 1995) This also gives the dancer a feeling that she has an edge over the other dancers and sometimes this edge is important.
     The ultimate goal for a dancer is to become a professional. The truth is as stated by a dancer, “In the real world people who are not thin do not get jobs.” (Emily Martin, personal communications, December, 1995) In the dancing world this is true. All dancers know that to get into a dance company of choice they have to look like the other girls in the ballet world so that when they get on stage they all look the same. The dancers know this and before applying for a dance company make sure that their bodies conform to the ideals of the dance company. The edge (being smaller than all other) that is gained through anorexia may be what gets them into the dance company. Those girls that do not have the figures have to find something else to do with their lives. For some this can be too much and that will drive them to anorexia to get into the company the next audition.
     Dancers are usually from a moderately high socio-economic background. As discussed previously, the children from the high socio-economic background have a higher incidence of getting anorexia than any other group. With the pressures of their family life and of dancing these girls are at a higher risk than any other group in society (of getting anorexia).
     The primary reason that a dancer will develop anorexia is traditionally a ballet dancers are slender. When it is known throughout the world that the best dancers in the world are thin and only the thin ballet dancers get jobs, it is easy for a dancer at a young age to think that anorexia is the only way for them to become and stay thin. To a dancer the pressure to be thin is very great. Before anyone looks at the way they dance or the way they move, the way they look is the first thing noticed. “An ideal has been set in place in the dance community which reflects the general publics desire to see thin women on stage.” (Dyson, 1995) (Here is the link you can refer to regarding this information)



Listed below are a few places that a person can seek help for anorexia nervosa.

National Eating Disorders Association
603 Stewart Street, Suite 803
Seattle, WA 98101

National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, HHS

National Institute of Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892

Academy for Eating Disorders

American Psychological Association
750 First Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

T.H.E. (Treatment, Healing, Education) Center for Disordered Eating
297 Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801

American Psychiatric Association
1000 Wilson Blvd, Suite 1825
Arlington, VA 22209


This explans how anorexia is linked to a pleasure-regulating brain chemical.

Women who suffer from anorexia have increased chemical activity in a part of the brain that controls reward and reinforcement, something that may explain why they are driven to lose weight but don’t get any pleasure from it, according to a new study. Researchers used brain-imaging technology on 10 women who had recovered from anorexia and 12 healthy women. In the anorexic women, they found overactivity by dopamine receptors in a part of the brain known as the basal ganglia. Dopamine is a brain chemical that is associated with regulating pleasure. “The take-home message is dopamine in this area may be very important in how we respond to stimuli, how we view positive and negative reinforcement,” said Dr. Walter Kaye, a psychiatry professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and one of the researchers involved in the study. Dr. Guido Frank, a child psychiatry fellow at the University of California at San Diego and also a leader of the study, said the hope is that the research can lead to the development of drugs to treat anorexia. “It’s very, very hard to treat. They recognize it’s wrong, but they still don’t eat,” Frank said. The research was reported this month online in the journal Biological Psychiatry. About 1 percent of American women suffer from anorexia, a disease than can also affect men. It has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness, Kaye said. Women suffering from anorexia have obsessional personalities, avoid harm and prefer routine, said Dr. Douglas Bunnell, past president of the National Eating Disorders Association and clinical director of the Renfrew Center of Connecticut. These women tend to resist therapy and have a distorted perception of themselves, he said. Although only a small number of women get anorexia in its purest form, there are many more people who suffer from some form of an eating disorder, Bunnell said. Making the connection between anorexia and what’s happening in the brain is important for understanding and treating eating disorders, he said.

The face of Anorexia

This video is of a woman by the name of Isabelle Caro.  She weighs 77lbs and did an ad campaign to show the effects of anorexia.


Medications: In Order of Popularity


Related Diseases and Conditions

Low blood pressure

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Binge Eating Disorder

Women’s health

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Facts about anorexia nervosa:

  • Anorexia nervosa occurs in 1% to 5% of the population.
  • About 90% to 95% are females between ages 13 and 30. However, anorexia nervosa can also occur in males and people of all ages.
  • About half of people with eating disorders also experience depression.
  • Although anorexia nervosa is most common in the white upper and middle class, it occurs in people of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • People in certain occupations that emphasize leanness to improve performance and appearance are at increased risk for developing anorexia nervosa. These include dancers, gymnasts, figure skaters, runners, wrestlers, and models.
  • Only one out of ten people with an eating disorder receive treatment.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.


The main criteria necessary for the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa are:

  • Excessive weight loss or lack of normal weight gain, often to the point of starvation
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
  • Distorted image of body weight or shape
  • Absence of at least three menstrual periods in a row in females

These are common behaviors that occur in anorexia nervosa:

  • Significant reduction of the amount of food eaten
  • Avoiding eating; skipping meals
  • Intense focusing on food, eating, and body weight and shape
  • Repeatedly weighing oneself
  • Denial of hunger
  • Rigid eating patterns, such as extreme controlling of calories and fat even when underweight
  • Unusual rituals at mealtimes, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, moving food around the plate, and throwing out food so it does not have to be eaten
  • Storing or hoarding food
  • Collecting recipes and cooking for others while finding excuses to avoid eating
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide the amount of weight lost
  • Obvious fear or anxiety before eating and guilt after eating
  • Complaining of bloating and unusual fullness after eating only small amounts of food
  • Excessive or compulsive exercising


This link will show you a questionnaire known as an “Eating Attitudes Test.”  This test is to help identify symptoms and eating behaviors that may associate someone with a possible eating disorder.



This clip talks about a young girl, Dana, who suffered from Anorexia.  I’m just amazed that a child at the age of 8 is suffering from an eating disorder.  I never realized that children at this age were affected by this.  It’s heartbreaking.



  1. A lack or loss of appetite for food (as a medical condition).
  2. An emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat.