Permarexia: symptoms, causes and treatment

Many people decide to follow diets to lose weight. There are a large number of diets available to anyone, whether through the Internet, social networks, health centers, etc.

In addition, these diets are of all kinds: to lose weight, to gain muscle, to define oneself, to reduce sugar levels …

But what happens when an obsession with hypocaloric diets appears? That then we can face a case of permarexia . What is this disorder? What are its symptoms, causes and treatments? We will answer all these questions through the following article.

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Permarexia: what is it?

We have mentioned the fact of making a certain diet … A priori, making a diet should not be something dangerous or pathological, but … what happens when the fact of making certain diets becomes the central axis of our life and our main concern is to lose weight and control everything we eat? That then we no longer speak of a more or less healthy habit, but of a psychological disorder called permarexia.

Thus, permarexia is a disorder of eating behavior, which is mainly characterized by an obsession with diets that lose weight and by counting calories ingested compulsively. Permarexia is classified as an “unspecified eating behavior disorder” within the diagnostic reference manuals (as is the DSM-5).

In this way, the diets that a person with permarexia follows are hypocaloric diets , that is, with low calorie content, in order to constantly lose weight. The patient compensates for that sickly fear of gaining weight, with the practice of these types of diets, which follows the letter and obsessively.

The follow-up of these diets adds to a constant scrutiny of the labels of the products you are going to eat, for that great fear of gaining a calorie of more, which you want to avoid at all costs.

Permarexia is actually a disorder that can be the prelude to other even more serious eating disorders (eating disorders), such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa . To these last two disorders, other serious behaviors can be added, such as: intense physical exercise, compensatory behaviors (use of laxatives, self-induced vomiting …), etc.


There are key symptoms to detect a permarexia; Thus, experts talk about some of them, and say that when a person changes their diet more than three times in a period of two to four months, added to a constant concern for weighing and recording the results, and an obsession to tell the calories of what you buy and eat, that person is at risk of permarexia.

But let’s see the most typical symptoms of permarexia in a little more detailed way:

1. Obsession for calories ingested

People with permarexia manifest an obsession with the calories they eat. This means that the patient compulsively counts how many calories he is eating with each food or product , and of what type. For this, it is not that I look at the labels, I directly scan them and analyze them in detail.

2. Monitoring of miracle diets

Another symptom of people suffering from permarexia is a constant follow-up of miracle diets to lose weight.

3. Deprivation of certain types of food

Being in constant monitoring of diets, people suffering from permarexia are deprived of certain foods necessary for the proper functioning of the body in every way. These foods may contain essential vitamins or proteins that are being lost with this type of hypocaloric diets , which affects your health very negatively.

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4. Influence of weight on self-esteem and mood

Another primary symptom in permarexia is the fact that people who suffer from it have subject both their mood and their self-esteem to their weight and physical appearance. That is, they “measure” their well-being, their happiness and their self-esteem through how much they weigh and how their body silhouette is .

This, logically, at a psychological level is a great harm to the person, since it is nourishing external things to value something purely interior.

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5. Swings in body weight

Another symptom of permarexia is the appearance of oscillations in body weight. Thus, although they are people who try by all means to follow the strict diets to which they are subjected, they suffer variations in their weight, which affects them very negatively in health at the mental level and at the physical level, because if they have gained any kilo “of more” feel very bad.

6. Consumption of slimming products

In addition to following hypocaloric diets, in order to lose weight and always stay thin, people with permarexia also consume products of different types to achieve their end: slimming products, vitamins, diuretics …


Like most psychological disorders, permarexia also usually has a multifactorial cause. That is, there are several factors that influence its appearance . Some of the most frequent (which in turn, configure the features of a person suffering from permarexia) are.

1. Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem is at the base of many eating disorders. In turn, that low self-esteem can be caused by many other factors.

People with permarexia, as we have seen, tend to be valued based on how much they weigh and how their body is / is physically, which ends up further undermining their self-esteem, turning this situation into a vicious circle .

2. Body dissatisfaction

Another cause of permarexia is dissatisfaction with the body itself. This, in turn, may be influenced by the stereotype of current beauty in society , which rewards thinness – in many cases extreme -, coupled with a generalized obsession with body worship and its display, etc.

3. Emotional instability

The profile of a person with permarexia often consists of that of an emotionally unstable person, who needs to “control” that instability through actions such as: following a highly strict diet, analyzing the calories he consumes, etc. Emotional instability is also frequently translated as “neuroticism . 

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4. Obsessive traits

Obsessive traits are also one of the causes of people with permarexia (we insist, always added to other causes). That is, the typical profile of these people is that of people who are also obsessive, who need to control many aspects of their lives to feel “at peace” .

5. Great importance attached to the opinion of others

Finally, another cause of permarexia is the fact of giving excessive importance to the opinions of others, when assessing oneself.

This is directly related to the low self-esteem already mentioned. Thus, these are often insecure people, who “need” constantly to please, as well as the approval of others.


In the treatment indicated to treat permarexia, logically, it should be assessed and adapted to each particular case. On a psychological level, the irrational thoughts associated with the body and the importance of being thin should be worked on .

Thus, one of the objectives will be to increase the patient’s self-esteem, as well as analyze their coping strategies when solving problems. Once the strategies are analyzed, work will be done so that the patient acquires healthier and adaptive coping strategies.

On the other hand, it will also be essential to work your obsessive traits and, ultimately, the most emotional sphere that is influencing the maintenance of the disorder.

For all this, we can opt for a cognitive-behavioral therapy, as it is one of the most effective when working with coping strategies, irrational thoughts, healthy habits, etc. However, other orientations can also be used, such as systemic therapy.

Finally, note that the psychological treatment should always be carried out with the support of a nutritionist who helps regulate and adapt the dietary guidelines and diets that the patient is following.


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