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What Do We Mean By Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder more common in, but not exclusive to, young women. About one in every 200 females in the UK suffers from AN, though the disorder affects both men and women of all ages, in all social groups, internationally. It is characterized by an abnormally low body weight, 15 percent or more below what is recommended for the person's age, height and sex, and in females by amenorrhoea (the absence of periods).

AN sometimes begins as harmless dieting, perhaps to lose a few pounds for a Spring wedding or a beach holiday. However, in certain cases, this can escalate. Success in losing weight can often give the dieter a sense of achievement and control, especially in individuals whose circumstances make them feel trapped or under pressure to succeed.

Anorexia Nervosa manifests itself in starvation, achieved by a number of possible means. These include:

  • Vomiting
  • Laxative abuse

Several of the physical symptoms of AN are the result of starvation. But in fact, AN is principally a psychological disorder. People who suffer from AN often demonstrate:

  • A fear of what they perceive to be fatness (or even of being a ‘normal’ weight)
  • An unreasonable pursuit of thinness
  • A distorted perception of their body image

There are many myths about Anorexia Nervosa, not least that it is an incurable condition. On the contrary, follow-up studies show that recovery is possible even after as long as 12 years of continuous severe symptoms.