Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and extreme weight loss. A person with anorexia experiences an intense fear of weight gain and their self-esteem becomes based almost entirely on their physical appearance. In response, they may feel compelled to starve themselves of food or exercise frequently. Anorexia may cause anxiety surrounding eating and a preoccupation with diet and weight. Approximately 90-95% of those affected are women and about 1% of American women have anorexia. It typically appears in early or mid-adolescence and can be fatal if not properly managed.
Early diagnosis can significantly help the recovery process. The most effective forms of treatment have proven to be some form of psychotherapy or counseling combined with careful attention to nutritional needs. Nutritional counseling can be extremely beneficial along with close monitoring of one’s diet and exercise. Having supportive friends and family to help keep the individual with anorexia stay on their nutritional plan may also be helpful and encouraging.
There is a big difference between dieting or wanting to be thinner and anorexia the mental disorder. People with anorexia have an illogical fear of weight gain and in many cases do not realize how hazardous their behavior is to their health. They become so focused on their weight and appearance that their other priorities, such as school, work or relationships, may fall by the wayside. Anorexia nervosa can involve binging, purging and restricting food intake. Without proper treatment or management, it can lead to serious health problems or even result in organ failure, systemic shutdowns or death.
There are a variety of organizations that exist to help those suffering from eating disorders like anorexia. Support groups and outpatient programs are available, as well as crisis lines for those in acute danger.