Anorexia nervosa, more commonly known as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by extreme, dangerous weight loss. It is considered a serious mental illness, and is the most deadly of the eating disorders.
The diagnosis of anorexia requires a person to be significantly underweight. However, those who do not meet the definition of anorexia, or those who have unhealthy eating behaviors that mimic anorexia but without the weight loss, likely require treatment and are still treated for an eating disorder.
The requirements for an anorexia nervosa diagnosis are:
- Individual’s often substantial intelligence and drive to achieve is directed at the goal of becoming “thin” by limiting eating to very very few calories; over-exercising; taking diet pills, emetics, and laxatives; or some combination of these and other behaviors to reduce weight
- AND these behaviors result in significant weight loss
- AND the individual continues to believe they are overweight, clearly at odds with the obvious physical evidence; self-evaluation too caught up in body image
An example of anorexia is a female patient seeing body in different way than reality.
For children to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, they do not need to be losing weight; they just need to be not meeting expected weight gains (since they grow in weight).
Contrary to popular belief, someone who has anorexia may still be binging and purging. The differentiator between anorexia versus bulimia is whether the weight loss is significant. In anorexia, it is; in bulimia, it is not.
Anorexia requires counseling and medical treatment.
Anorexia can pose an increased risk of suicidality if not treated. If someone has anorexia, they are most likely to require hospitalization and invasive medical intervention.
There is a sharp difference in prevalence of anorexia between males and females. The prevalence of anorexia is a 10 to 1 female to male ratio.
Anorexia is a less prevalent disorder overall among the general population.