Anorexia Nervosa is a chronic, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. It is characterized by deliberate restriction of calories to the point of starvation. Anorexia usually begins at during puberty. Over a lifetime it will affect 1-2 percent of females in the US. Anorexia is most common among adolescent girls and young women, athletes, actors, dancers, models and media personalities.
Teens with anorexia are obsessed with their body weight and shape, fat distribution,dress size, food and calories, and have a pathologically distorted body image. In short they look in their mirror and see a fat girl when we see a sickly emaciated child.Symptoms include:
- restriction of calories to maintain a body weight that is less than 85 percent of the individual’s normal healthy weight. For example if a14 year-old girl’s normal, healthy body weight were 100 pounds, her anorexic weight would be an emaciated 85 pounds or less.
- obsessive preoccupation with body weight and intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
- grossly distorted body image resulting in severe psychological and emotional impact on how one sees and values herself
- absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles (amenorrhea)
Types of anorexia
There are two types of anorexia nervosa, the restricting type and the binge-eating/purging type. Binge eating and purging behavior is defined as self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas and excessive exercise. In both types the symptoms are driven by fear of weight gain. Restrictive types do not binge or purge.
Causes of anorexia
Anorexia is a poorly understood, multifaceted disease; the exact cause or causes are unknown and are likely caused by several factors including genetics, personality type, family environment and brain biochemistry.
Scientists have found that the neurotransmitters (brain chemical messengers) serotonin and nor-epinephrine are frequently decreased in patients with anorexia in much the same way as individuals with depression.
Common personality traits among those with anorexia include low self-esteem, obsessive tendencies and perfectionism. Those with anorexia tend to be very driven to succeed in academics and sports, while never satisfied with themselves or their performance. This hidden low self-esteem is pathologically tied to their appearance and body image.
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