Anorexia Nervosa - More Detail
Anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder, is characterized by emaciation, a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight, a distortion of body image and intense fear of gaining weight, a lack of menstruation among girls and women, and extremely disturbed eating behavior.
A person with anorexia nervosa may have started out just eating smaller amounts of food than usual, but at some point, the urge to eat less spirals out of control.
Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight, even when they are starved or are clearly malnourished. Eating, food and weight control become obsessions. A person with anorexia typically weighs herself or himself repeatedly, portions food carefully, and eats only very small quantities of only certain foods.
Some people with anorexia lose weight by dieting and exercising excessively; others lose weight by self-induced vomiting, or misusing laxatives, diuretics or enemas.
Some who have anorexia recover with treatment after only one episode. Others get well but have relapses. Still others have a more chronic form of anorexia, in which their health deteriorates over many years as they battle the illness.
Anorexia frequently appears during adolescence or young adulthood, but some reports indicate it can develop during childhood or later in adulthood. Women and girls are much more likely than males to develop anorexia with men and boys accounting for an estimated 5 to 15 percent of patients with anorexia.
According to some studies, people with anorexia are up to ten times more likely to die as a result of their illness compared to those without the disorder. The most common complications that lead to death are cardiac arrest, and electrolyte and fluid imbalances. Suicide also can result.
Anorexia is a real, treatable medical illness with complex underlying psychological, biological and social causes.
How Are Men And Boys Affected?
Although anorexia primarily affects women and girls, boys and men are also vulnerable with one in four preadolescent cases of anorexia occurs in boys.
Like females who have eating disorders, males with the illness have a warped sense of body image and often have muscle dysmorphia, a type of disorder that is characterized by an extreme concern with becoming more muscular. Some boys with the disorder want to lose weight, while others want to gain weight or "bulk up." Boys who think they are too small are at a greater risk for using steroids or other dangerous drugs to increase muscle mass.
Boys with eating disorders exhibit the same types of emotional, physical and behavioral signs and symptoms as girls, but for a variety of reasons, boys are less likely to be diagnosed with what is often considered a stereotypically "female" disorder.