|What is anorexia nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is a psychological illness with often devastating
physical consequences. The sufferer usually has a morbid fear
of weight gain and becoming fat, although this is not the case
for all anorectics. Those suffering from anorexia will deprive
themselves of food (and sometimes liquids), leading to weight
loss and, usually, a variety of physical problems and health
Like other eating disorders, anorexia is a mask covering other
underlying problems. The sufferer tends to have low self-esteem
and a need to control aspects of their environment. Anorexia
is used as a way to cope with stress, anxiety and feeling
out of control.
Eating disorders, particularly anorexia and bulimia, usually
affect females but the number of male anorectics is on the
increase. Somebody can develop anorexia at any age, in any
place and in any situation.
Facts and statistics for anorexia
Causes of anorexia nervosa
There is no pre-determined cause of anorexia and the reasons
for the onset of the disorder may vary from person to person.
Often there are a number of contributory factors, many of
which may be from the sufferer’s past.
One thing that all anorectics have in common is low self-esteem.
Low self-esteem can quickly lead to a negative body image.
Causes of eating disorders
Behavioral signs and symptoms
Somebody suffering from anorexia will often go to extreme
lengths to avoid consuming food. One of the most typical behaviors
is lying about having eaten, which can quickly become second
Anorectics will also make excuses so they can eat less or
avoid meals altogether. They may decide to become vegetarian
or vegan, claim they need to fast for religious reasons, or
they may simply claim they are on a diet.
Other signs include the sufferer withdrawing and isolating
themselves, attempts by the sufferer to cover up their weight
loss, and eratic behavior or mood swings.
Physical signs and symptoms
There are many physical symptoms associated with anorexia,
some of which become more severe the longer the disorder remains
untreated. Most sufferers will encounter health problems sooner
rather than later. These problems include:
What these symptoms mean
- Muscle and cartilage deterioration
- Irregular or slow heart beat
- Heart failure
Diagnostic criteria (DSM IV)
1. Refusal to maintain body weight over a minimum normal weight
for age and height (i.e. weight loss leading to body weight
15% below that expected… or…failure to make expected
weight gain during a period of growth, leading to body weight
15% below that expected.)
2. Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat even though
3. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight, size
or shape is experienced, undue influence of body shape and
weight on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of
low body weight.
4. In females, absence of at least three consecutive menstrual
cycles when otherwise expected to occur (primary or secondary
Diagnostic criteria for all eating
Atypical anorexia nervosa (ICD-10)
Disorders that fulfill some of the features of anorexia nervosa
but in which the overall clinical picture does not justify that
diagnosis. For instance, one of the key symptoms, such as amenorrhoea
or marked dread of being fat, may be absent in the presence
of marked weight loss and weight-reducing behavior. This diagnosis
should not be made in the presence of known physical disorders
associated with weight loss.