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What is anorexia nervosa?

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ANOREXIA Anorexia What is anorexia nervosa? The cause of anorexia nervosa is unknown. Both biological and social factors play a part. People in certain professions, such as modeling and ballet dancing, are especially at risk. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder affecting mainly girls or women, although boys or men can also suffer from it. It usually starts in the teenage years. It is difficult to estimate how common it is but surveys suggest that up to 1 per cent of schoolgirls and female university students have anorexia nervosa. This may be an underestimate. How is the disease characterised? Body weight is maintained at least 15 per cent below that expected for a person's height. It is self-induced weight loss caused by avoiding fattening foods and may involve taking excessive exercise, using laxatives or diuretics or self-induced vomiting. ...read more.


There may also be peer pressure to lose weight, nasty comments from others about weight that trigger dieting or an unrealistic expectation of what a normal body weight should be. What are the signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa? Weight loss of at least 15 per cent below the normal ideal body weight for a person of the same age and height. Cessation of periods or delayed development in puberty. Self-induced weight loss. Methods can include fasting, low food intake, excessive exercise, diuretic medicines (medicines that make you urinate more) laxatives, diet pills or vomiting. Sometimes people make themselves sick to lose weight. Others take excessive exercise. Sufferers have a constant fear of gaining weight, as well as a feeling of being fat, even when their weight is much less than that of other people of the same height. ...read more.


Treatment aims to: restore the person to a healthy weight. restore healthy eating patterns. treat any physical complications or associated mental health problems. address thoughts, feelings and beliefs concerning food and body image. enlist family support. In some cases, medication is necessary, especially where there is depression or serious compulsive symptoms. Treatment by the family doctor is possible, although sometimes a psychologist or psychiatrist experienced in eating disorders is necessary. If the weight loss becomes serious (more than 20 to 25 per cent less than total normal body weight) admission to hospital may be required. Treatments used include individual psychological therapy, family therapy and drug therapy using antidepressants. What can people suffering from anorexia do to help themselves? Anorexia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening illness, and should be treated as soon as possible. Sufferers should seek help, or be encouraged to do so. Self-help organisations for anorexia nervosa are usually run by people with personal experiences of eating disorders. There are also self-help books available. ...read more.

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