Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by a relentless pursuit of thinness, a distorted body image, an extreme fear of obesity, and restriction of food consumption, leading to a significantly low body weight.
Anorexia nervosa usually begins during adolescence and is more common among females.
Individuals with anorexia nervosa restrict their food intake despite continued weight loss, are preoccupied with thoughts of food, and may deny that they have a problem.
Severe or rapid weight loss can have life-threatening consequences.
Medical professionals base the diagnosis on symptoms and do a physical examination and tests to check for adverse effects of excessive weight loss.
Treatments that emphasise returning to normal weight and normal eating behaviours (such as individual and family psychologic therapy) can help.
Anorexia nervosa usually begins during adolescence or young adulthood and rarely begins before puberty or after age 40.
In a given year, up to 1 in 200 young females have anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is less common among males. However, mild cases may not be identified.
In areas with a genuine food shortage, anorexia nervosa is rare.
There are two types of anorexia nervosa:
- Restricting type:
- Individuals limit how much they eat but do not regularly binge eat or purge.
- For example, by making themselves vomit (called self-induced vomiting) or taking laxatives.
- Some exercise excessively.
- Binge-eating/purging type:
- Individuals restrict their food intake but also regularly binge eat and/or purge.