Anorexia nervosa (AN) has psychological and physical consequences that seriously compromise individual health. At present, researchers conceptualize AN using biopsychosocial perspectives that address biological, psychological and social influences on the disorder. In the present review, key precipitants of AN are discussed including genetic susceptibility, changes to neurotransmitter activity, personality traits, fear of fatness, life stressors, internalization of a "thin" attractiveness ideal, and family relationship dynamics. Together these factors can increase risk for physical, psychological and behavioral problems related to AN. In addition, select future research directions are discussed, particularly causal relations between neuroendocrine functioning and anorexia. Finally, recommendations are discussed for prevention and intervention aimed at reducing suffering and improving quality of life among people with AN.