The common belief behind the symptom of anorexia is "fat phobia" and need for control. But, it is so much deeper, and that's why solutions aren't simple. After ruling out a physical health condition, we have to consider the many different rationales for food refusal that few are even aware of.
Believe it or not, there have even been studies showing that non-Caucasian women may not actually present with the same rationales for food refusal such as "fat phobia" as Caucasian women. It is always important to realize that there are many differing reasons based on culture, gender, and race. Those looking for a "cause" of anorexia may stumble over current biomedical, psychological, and cultural understandings, but there has been no single paradigm established for the "real" origin of the disease.
Those from the biological view look at metabolic and hormonal disturbances. Learning theories suggest that the avoidance of weight gain is promoted and awarded by society and the family. There are also medical explanations and excuses--stomach bloating and lack of hunger and appetite. Psychological states analyze the individuals perception of themselves and how food restriction is used as a coping mechanism and craving attention. There is also thinking negative thoughts about the food itself. Sometimes food restriction is used to obtain a sense of stability and structure in everyday life, or to avoid negative emotions and difficult experiences by concentrating on food. Sometimes it is a way to achieve a child-like appearance, or reject sexuality. It's also been thought of as failure to connect to or accept one's own needs, a rejection of feelings, or practice control over one's feelings and desires through the body, so it becomes a way to self-assert.
Food restriction is also thought to be reaction to family problems and conflicts, or sexual abuse or incest. Family disturbances involving overprotection, rigidity, conflict avoidance, enmeshment, reduced communication or expressiveness, and focus on perfectionism are also considered.
There are sometimes religious reasons why people restrict food. Cultural assimilation and adjustment issues may also be a trigger. There are other more commonly recognized explanations having to do with societal impacts regarding psychological struggles of modern day women in transition, stereotypes that women are taught to live up to, and messages we receive about food itself as to whether it is "good or bad".
More Answers from Lisa Palmer