What is Anorexia Athletica?

What is Anorexia Athletica?

What is Anorexia Athletica?

Eating Disorder Hope estimates that 10 million women and 1 million men in the United States find eating disorders to be a daily struggle. And at any given moment, several million individuals could be feeling the effects of an eating disorder, though the disease’s most common demographic is women between the ages of 12 and 35. The American Psychiatric Association lists the three most common types of eating disorders as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. The website says that those who suffer from anorexia nervosa are often overly critical of not only themselves but also their bodies; they may also continue to feel overweight even if they are, in actuality, experiencing semi-starvation or even malnutrition. Additionally, those that develop eating disorders may be concurrently suffering from other psychological disorders, such as panic, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and abuse of drugs and alcohol.


Anorexia athletica is not officially recognized by the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition or the American Psychiatric Association. Though not officially recognized as an eating disorder, anorexia athletica is widely considered to be a major issue. Anorexia athletica, also known as exercise bulimia or hypergymnasia, is a form of eating disorder whose hallmark is an obsession with using exercise to prevent weight gain or to lose weight. This issue is often seen in individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa; it is used as a way to burn off calories consumed after an eating binge. In anorexia athletica, an individual will work out for either excessive amounts of time or under extreme conditions until the act of exercising evolves from something beneficial into a compulsive obligation. One such work out could be an eight mile run on the treadmill, then an hour on an elliptical machine, followed by an hour of strength training.


Possible Signs of Anorexia Athletica

While there is no specified diagnostic criteria for anorexia athletica, the illness’s signs always revolve around exercising in excess, as well as an obsession with one’s weight and overall body image. Additionally, its symptoms often overlap with those seen in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Symptoms that are often related to anorexia athletica could include:

  • A diminishment of one’s enjoyment of sports and activities; it may even become nonexistent.
  • One’s sense of self worth is based on his or her physical performance
  • Excessive exercise
  • Denial that said excessive exercise is an issue
  • Obsessive behaviors and thoughts surrounding one’s body image, weight, as well as calories


Potential Complications of Anorexia Athletica

There are various complications that may arise as a result of anorexia athletica. They may include:

  • Arthritis
  • Renal failure
  • Liver failure
  • Malnourishment
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Physical trauma from overuse of the body without adequate caloric and nutritional intake
  • Bone injuries such as fractures
  • Muscle injuries like torn ligaments


What Causes Anorexia Athletica?

As is the case with other types of eating disorders, there is no singular cause behind anorexia athletica. There are, however, multiple underlying factors that may be associated with the illness: past trauma, surviving abuse, having been bullied, low self-esteem, and having poor relationships with one’s parents could make it more likely for him or her to develop anorexia athletica. Some psychiatric disorders that may be linked to a heightened risk of anorexia athletica include substance abuse, non-suicidal self-injury disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Genetics, too, may provide an underlying trigger that could lead to the development of eating disorders such as anorexia athletica.


Treating Anorexia Athletica

One’s treatment plan for anorexia athletica tends to depend on the severity of his or her disorder. It could consist of inpatient or outpatient psychotherapy such as interpersonal psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as nutritional counseling. These forms of treatment strive to help an individual come to terms with their internal triggers as well as foster awareness and healthy coping skills to help them fight their eating disorder. 


If you or a loved one is experiencing anorexia athletica or otherwise disordered eating, we are here to help at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You may contact us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.