Anorexia nervosa, also known as just anorexia, is an eating disorder. This disorder makes you obsess about your weight and food. If you have this problem, you may have a warped body image. You may see yourself as fat even though you have a very low body weight.
With anorexia, you may use unusual eating habits to cope with stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Limiting food may give you a sense of control over your life.
This problem affects more women than men. It often starts during the teenage years. The number of young women between the ages of 15 to 19 who have anorexia nervosa has increased every 10 years since 1930.
Experts don’t know what causes anorexia. It often begins as regular dieting. Over time it can lead to extreme and unhealthy weight loss. You may use extreme dieting and food limiting tricks due to fear of getting fat.
Anorexia has two subtypes:
A person with anorexia is more likely to come from a family with a history of certain health problems. These include weight problems, physical illness, and mental health problems. Mental health problems may include depression and substance abuse.
Other things that may play a role in anorexia are:
You may also be at risk if you take part in certain sports and activities that focus on body shape and size. These include:
Anorexia can cause a variety of symptoms. They may be related to food or weight. They may be physical or emotional.
Food or weight-related symptoms can include:
Physical symptoms can include:
Emotional symptoms can include:
When you have anorexia, you may try to hide your problem from others. Over time, family members, teachers, and coaches may start to worry about your weight and behavior. Early treatment can help prevent serious health problems. Your healthcare provider will ask you about your medical history. He or she will give you a physical exam. Your healthcare provider may advise psychological testing. Talking with family members and other concerned adults can also help.
Treatment for anorexia can depend on your age, overall health, medical history, symptoms, and other factors. Urgent medical care may be needed for physical problems. Nutrition counseling can help you learn how to make healthy food choices. It can also help bring you back to a healthy weight.
Therapy can help you learn how to deal with emotions. It can also help you improve your coping skills and adopt healthy habits. Therapy can be done one-on-one, with your family, or with a group. Some medicines can also help to treat mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Anorexia is very harmful on the body, and can lead to serious problems such as:
Experts don’t know how to prevent anorexia nervosa. It may help if family members have healthy attitudes and actions around weight, food, exercise, and appearance. Adults can help children and teens build self-esteem in various ways. This includes academics, hobbies, and volunteer work. Focus on activities that aren’t related to the way a person looks.
If you have anorexia, talk with your healthcare provider. You can recover from anorexia and get back your health. To do this you will need to follow a full treatment plan. During recovery, you will need to not weigh yourself all the time. You will also need to not spend a lot of time alone. It’s also important to learn and avoid things that that lead to your anorexic behaviors. Dietary supplements will help make sure you get enough nourishment. Relaxation methods, such as yoga, may also help ease symptoms.
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200