Loss of Appetite: Introduction & Causes


Introduction to Loss of Appetite

Loss of appetite medically referred to as anorexia means we don’t want to eat or we have reduced the desire to eat. It is not considered a medical emergency since many people all around the globe experience it time and again throughout the course of their lives. Yet, when an individual refuses to eat for a long period of time, his/her body can become immuno-compromised and lose disease-fighting agents making the condition serious.

It can be caused by a variety of conditions and diseases. Some conditions can be temporary and reversible, i.e. loss of appetite from the effects of medications. While some of the conditions can be more serious, such as from the effects of underlying cancer. There might be physical, biological, mental and emotional factors behind it. Commonly, when the condition is treated, a person’s appetite should be normal again but if it does not go back to normal, we should be careful. Persistent appetite loss should not be ignored but should be evaluated by a health-care professional.


Causes of Loss of Appetite

  • Bacteria and Viruses

Usually, a decreased appetite is due to a bacterial or viral infection. The symptom appears along with other symptoms such as coughing, tiredness, or sneezing. As these illnesses are typically very short-term and rarely last over a few weeks,  appetite will return to normal quickly.

  • Psychological Causes

There are various psychological causes for a loss of appetite. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many elderly people lose their appetites, though the reason why is unknown. Appetite may also tend to decrease when one is upset, depressed, anguished, or anxious.


Boredom and stress have also been linked to a decreased appetite.

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa can also lead to a decreased appetite in general. A person with anorexia undergoes self-starvation or other methods to lose weight. People who suffer from it are typically underweight and have an extreme fear of gaining weight. Anorexia nervosa can also cause malnutrition.


Pregnancy can also cause decreased appetite during first three months.

Well, while talking about symptoms, loss of appetite is a symptom itself. Meanwhile, symptoms include not wanting to eat, unintentional weight loss, not feeling hungry and not willing to eat one’s favorite items as well. The idea of eating food may make ones feel nauseous as if they might vomit after eating.  

Treatment of decreased appetite is based on the underlying causes. For example, if the cause is poor mental health, then we should help the person improve mood and develop a healthier sense of well-being. Eating with family, making favorite items etc can help. If the underlying cause is physical diseases, we should treat them first. Furthermore, we can have a few foods frequently rather than taking large meals.


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