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Anorexia Nervosa

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What is it?

Anorexia nervosa (usually referred to simply as anorexia and whose medical coding is 307.1) is primarily a psychological disorder, which causes the sufferer to stop eating and can eventually lead to death through starvation. According to Medicinenet, 95% of those affected by the illness are female.

Patients develop an obsessive attitude towards food, drink and sometimes exercise as well as a strong fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. Often, the sufferer will go to any lengths to restrict their calorie intake, including self-induced vomiting (a disorder called bulimia) and excessive consumption of laxatives and diet pills. Over time, losing weight becomes a sign of control over the body.

What are the causes?

There is no singular cause of the disorder and, over the years, researchers have found that many different factors can trigger anorexia. These include:

What are the symptoms?

It can sometimes be difficult to diagnose the illness before it has progressed into its more advanced stages because sufferers tend to go to great lengths to hide it. When it does make itself apparent however, some signs and symptoms include:

Over a prolonged period of time, the illness can have very serious consequences, such as:

How is it treated?

Sometimes anorexics become so underweight they need to be hospitalized in order to not die. The most difficult task is that of trying to treat a sufferer against their will. While in hospital, doctors can more actively and effectively offer assistance in gaining weight, though it will continue to be extremely frightening to the patient. Research has shown that the closer to normal a patients body weight is at the end of treatment, the more likely they are to recover, according to helpguide.org.

Therapy and counselling usually play a vital part in treating the condition by helping sufferers understand their behaviour and figure out practical ways of dealing with it.

Some celebrities who have battled anorexia include Kate BeckinsaleCalista Flockheart,Courtney Thorne-Smith and Ashlee Simpson-Wentz.

Image: Jaci Berkopec

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