Anorexia

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Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized
by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

Anorexia Nervosa
has four primary symptoms:

Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight
for age and height.
Intense fear of weight gain or being “fat,” even though underweight.
Disturbance in the experience of body weight or shape, undue influence of
weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body
weight.
Loss of menstrual periods in girls and women post-puberty.

Eating disorders experts have found that prompt intensive treatment significantly
improves the chances of recovery. Therefore, it is important to be aware of some of the
warning signs of anorexia nervosa.

Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa:


Dramatic weight loss.
Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting.
Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories
of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc.).
Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss.
Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat.”
Denial of hunger.
Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive
chewing, rearranging food on a plate).
Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food.
Excessive, rigid exercise regimen--despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury,
the need to “burn off” calories taken in.
Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
In general, behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and
control of food are becoming primary concerns.

© 2005 National Eating Disorders Association. Permission is granted to copy and reprint materials for
educational purposes only. National Eating Disorders Association must be cited and web address listed.
www.NationalEatingDisorders.org Information and Referral Helpline: 800.931.2237



Anorexia Nervosa (continued)
Health Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa:

Anorexia nervosa involves self-starvation. The body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to
function normally, so it is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy. This
“slowing down” can have serious medical consequences:

Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle
is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as heart rate and blood pressure levels sink
lower and lower.
Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
Muscle loss and weakness.
Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
Dry hair and skin, hair loss is common.
Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in
an effort to keep the body warm.

About Anorexia Nervosa:

Approximately 90-95% of anorexia nervosa sufferers are girls and women (American
Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Between 0.5–1% of American women suffer from anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in young women
(Hsu, 1996).
Between 5-20% of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa will die. The
probabilities of death increases within that range depending on the length of the
condition (Zerbe, 1995).
Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition.
Anorexia nervosa typically appears in early to mid-adolescence.


References:
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 4th ed. APA: Washington D.C.
Hsu, G.L.K. (1996). Epidemiology of the Eating Disorders. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 19(4), 681-697.
Sullivan, P.F. (1995). Mortality in Anorexia Nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 152, 1073-1074.
Zerbe, K.J. (1995). The Body Betrayed. Carlsbad, CA: Gurze Books.
© 2005 National Eating Disorders Association. Permission is granted to copy and reprint materials for
educational purposes only. National Eating Disorders Association must be cited and web address listed.
www.NationalEatingDisorders.org Information and Referral Helpline: 800.931.2237