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Anorexia Eating Disorder

What is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating problem that occurs when you are extremely afraid of becoming overweight and therefore eat as little as possible. If you have this disorder, you see yourself as being overweight when you are not.

This condition is both a physical illness and a mental illness. Hormone changes result from the low weight and low levels of body fat. In young women menstruation stops.

This illness occurs most often in young women. However, about 5% to 10% of people with anorexia nervosa are men. The illness can occur in athletes, dancers, and actors who want to maintain low weight for better performance.

Anorexia nervosa can be a very severe illness. Death may occur from starvation or suicide.

How does it occur?

The cause of anorexia nervosa isn't clear. Part of the cause in many cultures is the emphasis on equating female beauty with thinness.

You may be at risk of developing anorexia nervosa if you:

  • have a family history of anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders
  • have a family or personal history of mood disorders, such as major depression and bipolar disorder (manic depression), anxiety disorders, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • weight loss from strict dieting, usually severe
  • binge eating (eating large amounts of food in a short period of time) and/or purging (using laxatives or making yourself throw up)
  • weakness and feeling dizzy
  • brittle nails and hair
  • feeling cold all the time
  • feeling depressed or anxious
  • insomnia
  • if you are a woman, not having monthly periods when your weight drops below a certain level
  • fasting or eating very little
  • seeing yourself as being overweight when you are not
  • too much exercise
  • fearing weight gain even when you are underweight
  • thinking about food all the time.

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