Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that involves an inability to stay at the minimum body weight considered healthy for the person's age and height.
Persons with thisdisorder may have an intense fear of weight gain, even when they are underweight. They may use extreme dieting, excessive exercise, or other methods to lose weight.
Theexact causes of anorexia nervosa are unknown. Many factors probably are involved. Genetics and hormones may play a role. Social attitudes that promote unrealistically thin body types may alsocontribute.
More and more evidence points away from the idea that conflicts within a family may contribute to this or other eating disorders. Most mental health organizations no longer support this theory.Risk factors include:
• Being a perfectionist
• Feeling increasing concern about, or attention to, weight and shape
• Having eating and digestive problems during early childhood
•Having a mother or father with anorexia or addictions
• Having parents who are concerned about weight and weight loss
• Having a negative self-image and a high level of negative feelings ingeneral
• Undergoing a stressful life change, such as a new job or move, or events such as rape or abuse
Anorexia usually begins in adolescence or young adulthood. It is more common in females, butmay also be seen in males. The disorder is seen mainly in Caucasian women who are high academic achievers and who have a goal-oriented family or personality.
To be diagnosed withanorexia, a person must:
• Have an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even when they are underweight
• Refuse to keep weight at what is considered normal or acceptable for her age andheight (15% or more below the expected weight)
• Have a body image that is very distorted, be very focused on body weight or shape, and refuse to admit or acknowledge the seriousness of weight loss...