Anorexia: What Is It?

Reviewed Nov 23, 2016

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

  • Obsessed with limiting food and losing weight
  • Purges food through diet pills, laxatives, enemas, or forced vomiting
     

Anorexia is a severe eating disorder that affects mostly teen girls and young women. It involves a strict limit of food intake which slowly starves the body. In this way it differs from bulimia and binge-eating disorder (BED). Those illnesses involve extreme over-eating and a normal to high body weight. A person with anorexia will have a low to very low body weight. She will also be in denial about her state. She can be very thin and still believe she is fat. This puts her in great danger.

Signs

Anorexia, also called anorexia nervosa, involves being nervous about food. A person with the illness will try to over control her eating and her weight. He will count calories and eat very precise portions of food. He will be obsessed with losing weight and resort to extreme methods to do so. This often includes doing way too much exercise and dieting. Sometimes the person may take part in binge-eating. He will then purge himself through diet pills, laxatives, enemas, or forced vomiting.

Some of the signs to look for include:

  • Being very thin
  • Being in denial of one’s state
  • Having a distorted body image
  • Having an extreme fear of weight gain
  • Over exercising
  • Eating tiny amounts of food
  • Refusing to eat in public
  • Binge-eating and purging
  • Missing three or more menstrual cycles in a row

Causes

The disease tends to run in families. Having a mother or sister with the illness greatly adds to the chances of getting it. Sometimes it is caused by chemicals or hormones being out of balance.

Culture can also play a large role in getting the illness. Images of women with “perfect” bodies are all over the media. This creates unreal ideals for teens and young women.

Children, older women, and even males can get the disease though it is less common. Models, dancers and certain athletes are at higher risk due to their job demands. Peer pressure, stress, trauma, and a poor self-image can also be triggers.

Risks

The risks of not treating the disorder are many. These include issues that affect both the mind and body.

Some emotional risks are:

  • Withdrawal
  • Moodiness
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of feelings
  • Obsession with food and weight control
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Poor self-image
  • Thoughts of killing oneself

Some physical risks are:

  • Thinning of hair, nails, and bones
  • Dried, bruised, or yellow skin
  • Growth of fine body hair
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Slowing of heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Weakened muscles
  • Kidney problems
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Constant cold feeling
  • Disruption of menstrual cycles
  • Trouble getting pregnant
  • Problems with pregnancy

Treatment

People can die from anorexia. Early detection and prompt treatment is vital. Most of the ill effects of the disease can be reversed. The first step is to slowly increase and stabilize the person’s body weight. Talk therapy is the main form of treatment after that. A strong family support system is needed, as well as guidance on healthy eating. Sometimes drug treatment is also used.

Some people with the illness will achieve full recovery. Others may relapse from time to time. With proper treatment and support, most people with the illness can maintain a normal, healthy weight.

Resource

Office on Women’s Health
Anorexia Fact Sheet

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=149438 and www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Eating-Disorders; Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/anorexia-nervosa.html; National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/anorexia-nervosa; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
Reviewed by Maria F Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Obsessed with limiting food and losing weight
  • Purges food through diet pills, laxatives, enemas, or forced vomiting
     

Anorexia is a severe eating disorder that affects mostly teen girls and young women. It involves a strict limit of food intake which slowly starves the body. In this way it differs from bulimia and binge-eating disorder (BED). Those illnesses involve extreme over-eating and a normal to high body weight. A person with anorexia will have a low to very low body weight. She will also be in denial about her state. She can be very thin and still believe she is fat. This puts her in great danger.

Signs

Anorexia, also called anorexia nervosa, involves being nervous about food. A person with the illness will try to over control her eating and her weight. He will count calories and eat very precise portions of food. He will be obsessed with losing weight and resort to extreme methods to do so. This often includes doing way too much exercise and dieting. Sometimes the person may take part in binge-eating. He will then purge himself through diet pills, laxatives, enemas, or forced vomiting.

Some of the signs to look for include:

  • Being very thin
  • Being in denial of one’s state
  • Having a distorted body image
  • Having an extreme fear of weight gain
  • Over exercising
  • Eating tiny amounts of food
  • Refusing to eat in public
  • Binge-eating and purging
  • Missing three or more menstrual cycles in a row

Causes

The disease tends to run in families. Having a mother or sister with the illness greatly adds to the chances of getting it. Sometimes it is caused by chemicals or hormones being out of balance.

Culture can also play a large role in getting the illness. Images of women with “perfect” bodies are all over the media. This creates unreal ideals for teens and young women.

Children, older women, and even males can get the disease though it is less common. Models, dancers and certain athletes are at higher risk due to their job demands. Peer pressure, stress, trauma, and a poor self-image can also be triggers.

Risks

The risks of not treating the disorder are many. These include issues that affect both the mind and body.

Some emotional risks are:

  • Withdrawal
  • Moodiness
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of feelings
  • Obsession with food and weight control
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Poor self-image
  • Thoughts of killing oneself

Some physical risks are:

  • Thinning of hair, nails, and bones
  • Dried, bruised, or yellow skin
  • Growth of fine body hair
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Slowing of heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Weakened muscles
  • Kidney problems
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Constant cold feeling
  • Disruption of menstrual cycles
  • Trouble getting pregnant
  • Problems with pregnancy

Treatment

People can die from anorexia. Early detection and prompt treatment is vital. Most of the ill effects of the disease can be reversed. The first step is to slowly increase and stabilize the person’s body weight. Talk therapy is the main form of treatment after that. A strong family support system is needed, as well as guidance on healthy eating. Sometimes drug treatment is also used.

Some people with the illness will achieve full recovery. Others may relapse from time to time. With proper treatment and support, most people with the illness can maintain a normal, healthy weight.

Resource

Office on Women’s Health
Anorexia Fact Sheet

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=149438 and www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Eating-Disorders; Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/anorexia-nervosa.html; National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/anorexia-nervosa; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
Reviewed by Maria F Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Obsessed with limiting food and losing weight
  • Purges food through diet pills, laxatives, enemas, or forced vomiting
     

Anorexia is a severe eating disorder that affects mostly teen girls and young women. It involves a strict limit of food intake which slowly starves the body. In this way it differs from bulimia and binge-eating disorder (BED). Those illnesses involve extreme over-eating and a normal to high body weight. A person with anorexia will have a low to very low body weight. She will also be in denial about her state. She can be very thin and still believe she is fat. This puts her in great danger.

Signs

Anorexia, also called anorexia nervosa, involves being nervous about food. A person with the illness will try to over control her eating and her weight. He will count calories and eat very precise portions of food. He will be obsessed with losing weight and resort to extreme methods to do so. This often includes doing way too much exercise and dieting. Sometimes the person may take part in binge-eating. He will then purge himself through diet pills, laxatives, enemas, or forced vomiting.

Some of the signs to look for include:

  • Being very thin
  • Being in denial of one’s state
  • Having a distorted body image
  • Having an extreme fear of weight gain
  • Over exercising
  • Eating tiny amounts of food
  • Refusing to eat in public
  • Binge-eating and purging
  • Missing three or more menstrual cycles in a row

Causes

The disease tends to run in families. Having a mother or sister with the illness greatly adds to the chances of getting it. Sometimes it is caused by chemicals or hormones being out of balance.

Culture can also play a large role in getting the illness. Images of women with “perfect” bodies are all over the media. This creates unreal ideals for teens and young women.

Children, older women, and even males can get the disease though it is less common. Models, dancers and certain athletes are at higher risk due to their job demands. Peer pressure, stress, trauma, and a poor self-image can also be triggers.

Risks

The risks of not treating the disorder are many. These include issues that affect both the mind and body.

Some emotional risks are:

  • Withdrawal
  • Moodiness
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of feelings
  • Obsession with food and weight control
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Poor self-image
  • Thoughts of killing oneself

Some physical risks are:

  • Thinning of hair, nails, and bones
  • Dried, bruised, or yellow skin
  • Growth of fine body hair
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Slowing of heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Weakened muscles
  • Kidney problems
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Constant cold feeling
  • Disruption of menstrual cycles
  • Trouble getting pregnant
  • Problems with pregnancy

Treatment

People can die from anorexia. Early detection and prompt treatment is vital. Most of the ill effects of the disease can be reversed. The first step is to slowly increase and stabilize the person’s body weight. Talk therapy is the main form of treatment after that. A strong family support system is needed, as well as guidance on healthy eating. Sometimes drug treatment is also used.

Some people with the illness will achieve full recovery. Others may relapse from time to time. With proper treatment and support, most people with the illness can maintain a normal, healthy weight.

Resource

Office on Women’s Health
Anorexia Fact Sheet

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=149438 and www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Eating-Disorders; Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/anorexia-nervosa.html; National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/anorexia-nervosa; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
Reviewed by Maria F Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.