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Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric term used to describe an eating disorder where individuals have a distorted body image of themselves and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. They control their body weight by severely restricting what they eat, excessive exercise, intake of laxatives, purging, use of diet pills or diuretic drugs or literally starving themselves. Anorexia nervosa usually begins in young people around the onset of puberty and affects females more than males ( 90-95 percent female.) There is no clear single cause for anorexia and it is a very complex condition involving psychological, sociological and biological factors. People with anorexia are extremely thin or skinny but are convinced they are fat. Anorexia nervosa is a very serious condition and can put a serious strain on the bodyís organs. A person suffering from anorexia can become very ill or die if they do not seek help in time.

Some factors that may contribute to anorexia:

Culture - Women are under constant pressure to fit a certain ideal of beauty. Seeing images of thin females in magazines and on television makes it hard for women to feel good about their bodies. More and more, men are also feeling pressure to have a perfect body, also.

Families - If one family members suffers from anorexia, itís more likely that another family member will develop it.

Life changes or stressful events - Traumatic events like rape as well as stressful things like starting a new job, can lead to the onset of anorexia.

Personality traits - People with anorexia may have low self-esteem and not like themselves, or they may hate the way they look and feel hopeless. They are often perfectionists and set hard-to-reach goals for themselves.

Biology - Genes, hormones, and chemicals in the brain may be factors in developing anorexia.

Some of the signs of anorexia nervosa:

Making her or himself throw up
Taking pills to urinate or have a bowel movement
Taking diet pills
Not eating or eating very little
Exercising a lot, even in bad weather or when hurt or tired
Weighing food and counting calories
Moving food around the plate instead of eating it
Wearing baggy clothes all of the time
Weighing her or himself several times a day
Talking about food and weight all of the time
Extreme moodiness or sadness

Treatment for anorexia is usually focused on immediate weight gain, especially for those who have serious conditions that require hospitalization. In particularly serious cases, this may be done as an involuntary hospital treatment under mental health law, where such legislation exists. In the most cases, however, people with anorexia nervosa are treated as outpatients, with input from physicians, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and other mental health professionals. Psychotherapy is a very effective form of treatment and can lead to restoration of weight, return and improved psychological and social functioning. However, no specific type of psychotherapy seems to show any overall advantage when compared to other types. Family therapy has also been found to be an effective treatment for adolescents with anorexia.

There are various non-profit and community groups that offer support and advice to people who suffer from anorexia nervosa. For more information, contact:

The National Womenís Health Information Center

The National Mental Health Information Center
Phone: (800) 789-2647

Academy for Eating Disorders
Phone: (847) 498-4274

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
Phone: (847) 831-3438

National Eating Disorders Association
Phone: (800) 931-2237


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