Anorexia nervosa is a type of eating disorder. People who have anorexia have an intense fear of gaining weight. They severely limit the amount of food they eat and can become dangerously thin.
Anorexia affects both the body and the mind. It may start as dieting, but it gets out of control. You think about food, dieting, and weight all the time. You have a distorted body image. Other people say you are too thin, but when you look in the mirror, you see a fat person.
Anorexia affects less than 1% of the population. It is most common in:
Many people who have anorexia are white and come from wealthy families. But it can happen to anyone.
Early treatment can be very effective. But if not treated early, anorexia can become a lifelong problem. Untreated anorexia can lead to starvation and serious health problems, such as bone thinning (osteoporosis), kidney damage, and heart problems. Some people die from these problems.
Eating disorders are complex, and experts don't really know what causes them. But they may be due to a mix of family history, social factors, and personality traits. You may be more likely to have anorexia if:
People who have anorexia often strongly deny that they have a problem. They do not see or believe that they do. It is usually up to their loved ones to get help for them. If you are worried about someone, you can look for certain signs.
People who have anorexia:
Their lives become focused on controlling their weight. They may:
As starvation sets in, they start to develop signs of serious problems throughout the body. For instance, they may:
If your doctor thinks that you may have an eating disorder, he or she will compare your weight with the expected weight for someone of your height and age. He or she will also check your heart, lungs, blood pressure, skin, and hair to look for problems caused by not eating enough. You may also have blood tests or X-rays.
Your doctor may ask questions about how you feel. It is common for a treatable mental health problem such as depression or anxiety to play a part in an eating disorder.
All people who have anorexia need treatment. Even if you or someone you care about has only a couple of the signs of an eating disorder, get help now. Early treatment gives the best chance of overcoming anorexia. Treatment can help you get back to and stay at a healthy weight. It can also help you learn good eating habits and learn to feel better about yourself. Because anorexia is both a physical and emotional problem, you may work with a doctor, a dietitian, and a counselor.
There are no medicines to treat anorexia. But if you are depressed or anxious, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant medicine.
If your weight has dropped too low, you will need to be treated in a hospital. People who have lost a large portion of their weight need to take part in a in-patient treatment program for people with eating disorders. This type of treatment can be costly, but it gives the best chance of recovery.
It can be very scary to realize that someone you care about has an eating disorder. If you think a friend or loved one has anorexia, you can help.
If you or someone you know has anorexia, get help right away. The longer this problem goes on, the harder it is to overcome. With treatment, a person with anorexia can feel better and stay at a healthy weight.