Anorexia nervosa Anorexia nervosa is the most serious of the presently recognized eating disorders whichalso include bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.
While bulimia nervosa is characterized by eating binges that are followed by compensatory behavior such as vomiting or laxative abuse to prevent weight gainand binge eating disorder refers to eating binges without purging, anorexia nervosainvolves maintaining a below minimally-normal body weight by restricting one’sintake of food.
About half of all people with anorexia nervosa also suffer from bulimia nervosa. Also, theeating disorders are often associated with other psychiatric conditions such as depressionand substance abuse. Anorexia affects females more than males; 85-95 percent of those that suffer from thecondition are females. It is more common among teenagers than the other age groups andaffects primarily those belonging to the middle and upper social classes. In Westernsocieties, it is estimated that between 0.5 to 3.7 percent of females will suffer from anorexianervosa within their lifetime.
People who develop anorexia nervosa have an extreme fear of obesity or gaining weight. They are obsessed with becoming and remaining thin. Worse, they believethemselves to be still fat even when they are already thin and emaciated.
People with anorexia literally starve themselves. They avoid highcalorie foods and pick outa few food items which they eat in small amounts. Curiously, among people with anorexianervosa, eating small amounts of food often starts as a voluntary behavior aimed atmaintaining one’s weight to what society considers being thin, but at some point, thebehavior becomes pathologic.The exact reason people develop anorexia isn’t known. It is generally believed that theeating disorder is an attempt to cope with emotional problems. Some experts link thedisorder to hereditary factors. But social factors definitely also play a role in the occurrenceof the disease because in most societies, being slim is more desirable than being fat.People with anorexia nervosa are usually perfectionists with above average intelligence.Typically, people with anorexia are more than 15 percent underweight. They have dry skinand have a growth of fine hair all over their body. They have low heart rate, blood pressureand body temperature such that they feel cold all the time.Some develop edema (manas, in Filipino), while girls with the disorder usually stop havingmenstrual periods.
The health problems associated with anorexia nervosa are essentially those that occur in malnutrition. Malnutrition affects practically all organs in the body. If severe, it causes life-threatening fluids and electrolytes imbalance, abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure. As many as 20 percent of people who have beendiagnosed with anorexia nervosa die from either the complications of the disease(usually heart failure and electrolyte imbalance) or from suicide secondary to a co-