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Anorexia Nervosa often shortened to anorexia, is an illness in which a person is obsessed with being thin and has an intense fear of gaining weight. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by body image distortion and low body weight. It usually occurs in teenage girls, but it can also occur in teenage boys and adults, as well. People with the illness believe they are fat even though they are quite thin. Anorexia nervosa is not just about being obsessed with weight gain and food, itís actually an attempt to use food and weight to deal with emotional problems and to feel more in control of life. Not eating eases tension, anger and anxiety in an person suffering from anorexia nervosa. Individuals with anorexia nervosa think about food almost all the time and limit the food she or he eats. They are known to control their body weight through voluntary starvation, purging, vomiting, excessive exercise, diet pills and diuretic drugs. Anorexia nervosa is a very complex disorder that can lead to death in very severe cases. The condition involves neurobiological, psychological and components. Anorexia nervosa can be chronic and difficult to overcome, but with treatment, a person can return to healthier eating habits and reverse some of anorexia's serious complications.

Reasons that people get anorexia nervosa isnít exactly known. It may begin with the belief that they would be happier and more successful if they were thin. There is a desire for perfection in their lives. People with anorexia nervosa are usually good students and involved in many school and community activities. They blame themselves if they don't get perfect grades, or if other things in life are not perfect. There are two subtypes of the disease. In the restricting subtype, people maintain their low body weight purely by restricting their food intake and, possibly, with excessive exercise. The binge eating/purging subtype involves the restriction of food intake, but also binge eating and/or purging behaviors such as self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. Some people with anorexic nervosa move back and forth between the two subtypes during the course of their illness. People with anorexia nervosa have an ongoing preoccupation with food and weight, even when they are thin. People with anorexia nervosa often ignore hunger signals and thus control their desire to eat. Often they may cook for others and be preoccupied with food and recipes, yet they will not eat the food themselves. Many persons with anorexia nervosa intake fewer than 1,000 calories per day. The diet of persons with anorexia nervosa may consist almost completely of low-calorie foods like lettuce and carrots, popcorn, and diet soft drinks.

Conservative estimates suggest that one-half to one percent of all females in the United States develop anorexia nervosa. Again, it should be noted, however, that males and children as young as seven years old have been diagnosed with the illness. Also, women 50, 60, 70, and even 80 years of age have fit the diagnosis.


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