Anorexia nervosa, also known as just anorexia, is an eating disorder. This disorder makes you obsess about your weight and food. If you have this problem, you may have a warped body image. You may see yourself as fat even though you have a very low body weight.
With anorexia, you may use unusual eating habits to cope with stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Limiting food may give you a sense of control over your life.
This problem affects more women than men. It often starts during the teenage years. The number of young women between the ages of 15 to 19 who have anorexia nervosa has increased every 10 years since .
The exact cause of anorexia is not known, but research suggests that a combination of certain personality traits, emotions, and thinking patterns, as well as biological and environmental factors might be responsible.
People with anorexia often use food and eating as a way to gain a sense of control when other areas of their lives are very stressful or when they feel overwhelmed. Feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, anxiety, anger, or loneliness also might contribute to the development of the disorder. In addition, people with eating disorders might have troubled relationships, or have a history of being teased about their size or weight. Pressure from peers and a society that equates thinness and physical appearance with beauty also can have an impact on the development of anorexia.
Eating disorders also might have physical causes. Changes in hormones that control how the body and mind maintain mood, appetite, thinking, and memory might foster eating disorders. The fact that anorexia nervosa tends to run in families also suggests that a susceptibility to the disorder might partially be hereditary.
Physical signs and symptoms of anorexia may include:
Some people who have anorexia binge and purge, similar to individuals who have bulimia. But people with anorexia generally struggle with an abnormally low body weight, while individuals with bulimia typically are normal to above normal weight.
Behavioral symptoms of anorexia may include attempts to lose weight by:
Emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms may include:
Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose anorexia, a healthcare provider may use various diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, to rule out any medical conditions that could cause weight loss and to evaluate the physical damage weight loss and starvation may have caused.
Tests to rule out weight-loss causing illness or to assess anorexia side effects may include:
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