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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a psychological condition where an individual refuses to maintain their body weight at a certain normal level, which is defined as being at least 85% of the normal weight expected for one's age and height, or in adults, a Body Mass Index of at least 17.5 (see Diagnosis of Eating Disorders for more details).

The person does this out of an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. They will have a distorted perspective of their own body shape such that they will believe that they are overweight or that certain parts of their bodies are "too fat."

Women with this condition who are at the age where they should be having menstrual cycles will miss at least three consecutive periods due to being underweight.

According to the current version of the DSM-IV-TR there are two subtypes of Anorexia Nervosa (though recent evidence disputes this [ref]):

Restricting Type: The individual manages to keep their weight low mainly through dieting, fasting, or excessive exercise, without resorting to frequent binge-eating or purging behaviors.

Binge-Eating/Purging Type: The individual regularly engages in binge-eating and/or purging.

Though not part of the official definition of Anorexia Nervosa, a hallmark of this condition is that most individuals will deny that they have a problem and will resist offers for treatment. Because of their distorted body image they will deny that they are underweight, and the prospect of treatment will seem frightening because it implies that they will gain weight as a result.

Many individuals with Anorexia Nervosa will view their weight loss as a sign of success and self-control and will see any amount of weight gain as a moral failure and a loss of control. They will tend to set certain goals for themselves of what weight levels to achieve, but instead of feeling reassured when they attain these goals they will often become even more concerned about the prospect of gaining weight, which thus leads them into a self-perpetuating cycle of further and further weight loss.

These individuals may dedicate a lot of time and energy to monitoring and measuring their bodies by weighing themselves frequently, measuring the size of certain body parts, and checking themselves often in the mirror.


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