Anorexia (also known as Anorexia Nervosa), involves a severe restriction of food intake, usually due to an intense fear of getting fat, that can cause extreme weight loss to unhealthy or even deadly levels.
People with Anorexia see themselves as being overweight, even though they often are underweight or even dangerously underweight. In addition, the entire process of eating becomes an obsession, and unusual eating habits develop.
The first known documented occurrences of Anorexia appeared in 1873 when two physicians, Sir William Gull and Dr E. C. Lasegue, both published separate case histories of patients with the disease.
It is currently estimated that between 0.5% to 3.7% of females living in Western society will suffer from some form of Anorexia at some time during their life.
Approximately one-sixth of Western people with Anorexia are male, so less than 1% of Western males will suffer from some form of Anorexia at some time during their life.
The mortality rate among Western females with Anorexia is currently estimated at 0.56% per year, which is about 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes of death among females ages 15-24 in the general population. The most common causes of death for Anorexia sufferers are complications of the disorder, such as cardiac arrest or electrolyte imbalance, and suicide.
Signs and Symptoms
Anorexia is characterized by the following signs and symptoms:
Repeatedly checking body weight during a single day. Severe restriction of food intake. Loss of body weight to an unhealthy level. Unusual eating habits, such as avoiding food and meals, picking out only a few foods and eating these in very small quantities, or carefully weighing and portioning food. Delayed onset or loss of menstrual periods (females). An intense fear of gaining weight or getting fat, and/or losing control of eating. Often a disturbed body image is also associated with Anorexia, for example: Still regarding ones-self as being fat despite being quite underweight. Undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation. Denial of having a low body weight. Denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight. Resistance to maintaining a body weight above the recommended minimum weight for the person’s age, sex, and height. Extreme attempts to control their weight by one or more of the following unhealthy and potentially dangerous methods: self induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, misuse of fluid pills (diuretics), misuse of diet pills, misuse of enemas, intense, excessive and compulsive exercise, and/or, periods of overly strict dieting or fasting.
In addition to the signs and symptoms for each type of Eating Disorder, a range of warning signs can also indicate the possible development of an Eating Disorder.