Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric disorder characterized by abnormal eating behavior, severe self-induced weight loss, and psychiatric comorbidities. People with anorexia have an extreme fear of gaining weight, which causes them to try to maintain a very low weight. They will do almost anything to avoid gaining weight, including starving themselves or exercising too much. People with anorexia have a distorted body image. They think they are fat, even if they are extremely thin.

Anorexia is an emotional disorder that focuses on food, but many researchers believe it is an attempt to deal with perfectionism and a desire to gain control by strictly regulating food and weight. People with anorexia often feel that their self worth is tied to how thin they are.

Anorexia is increasingly common, especially among young women in industrialized countries where cultural ideals encourage women to be thin. Fueled by popular fixations with lean bodies, anorexia is also affecting a growing number of men, particularly athletes and those in the military.

Anorexia most commonly affects teens, as many as 3 in 100. Although anorexia seldom appears before puberty, when it does, associated mental conditions, such as depression and obsessive-compulsive behavior are usually more severe. Anorexia is often preceded by a traumatic event and is usually accompanied by other emotional problems. Anorexia is a life-threatening condition that can result in death from starvation, heart failure, electrolyte imbalance, or suicide. For some people, anorexia is a chronic disease, one that lasts a lifetime. But treatment can help people with anorexia develop a healthier lifestyle and avoid complications.

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Review Date: 4/23/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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