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Anorexia Nervosa

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Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any mental illness, including all other eating disorders. Although anorexia nervosa mainly affects girls and women, boys and men also suffer from anorexia. However, teens with anorexia nervosa may not admit that they are suffering from an intense fear of gaining weight.

What Is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is a mental disorder with devastating physical consequences. The literal anorexia definition is “not eating.” Moreover, anorexia nervosa is characterized by three main diagnostic components. These signs of anorexia include eating less and less as food intake is rigidly controlled, an extreme fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, and a profoundly distorted body image.

Eating so little that they are at the point of starvation, people with anorexia tend to experience unhealthy weight loss. Despite becoming dangerously thin, people with anorexia nervosa are convinced that they are still overweight or fat. At the same time, although an anorexic may weigh less than what is normal for their age or sex, they do not necessarily have low body weight. Therefore, early intervention for anorexia nervosa is essential before the symptoms of anorexia escalate, doing greater physical damage.

Some of the behavioral symptoms of anorexia nervosa include excessive exercising, extreme thinness, a distorted self-image, depression and anxiety, and restrictive eating patterns. Furthermore, the physical symptoms of anorexia include heart damage, thinning of the bones (osteoporosis), and multi-organ failure. Anorexia nervosa usually requires early intervention and inpatient treatment.

Sources: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services AdministrationOffice of Women’s Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)