The Compounding Effect of Starvation

Answer to typical comment: “They are just different, you can just tell”

When a person with AN loses weight (measured by BMI, Body Mass Index defined as the ratio of body weight and height for a given age), they begin to exhibit behaviors that we associate with AN. These behaviors develop as the person stays below a healthy weight becomes progressively more controlling about not eating.  The person’s fear of food is bewildering to outsiders.

‘Different in a crazy way’ comes from the effect of starvation; for example, prisoner of war camp in WWII observed a rapid or complete degeneration of character from the result of chronic starvation².  So there’s the effect of starvation as well as the irrational ability of a person with AN to sustain this state of misery.  A person with AN’s ‘crazy’ actions are the result of biological changes as their bodies go into starvation state.  Normal starvation explains this person’s obsession with food while the triggered AN explains their inability to eat despite their body being hungry.  This paradox (see the section: Scientific Explanation That Makes Sense) is understandable as the action of people with AN seems to correlate with our ancestors’ survival mechanism of being ‘migratory mode’ to find food.

Path Forward

Help them accept the condition and encourage them to get back to a healthy weight as it is the absolute first step to recovery (to eliminate the effect of starvation that leads to further debilitating effects of AN).

As mentioned earlier, people with AN typically have high-achieving personality types.  This is actually good news as this is the exact skills you need to get out this situation, setting goals and being persistent enough to achieve them is what is needed.


¹”It’s a very tragic illness in that anorexics are usually highly intelligent, creative people,” says Bernard Raxlen, a psychiatrist and director of the Graduate Center for Family Studies in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
² Into Thin Air by Ellen Ruppel Shell, Seed, Nov 2003 (78-83, 124)

NORMAL STARVATION: the body tries to conserve energy, symptoms of becoming obsessed with food and degeneration of character have been documented,.
AN TENDENCIES: the person seems energetic and desire physical activities in many cases (the body seems to experience ‘the high’ from consuming very little, rather than conserving energy)