Commonly Asked Questions: Anorexia Nervosa
What is It?
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that has been gaining a lot of attention in the last 10 to 15 years. People with Anorexia use extreme measures to lose weight. They often become dangerously thin and suffer significant health problems as a result.
Sometimes people confuse Anorexia Nervosa with Bulimia Nervosa. Unlike people with Anorexia, people with Bulimia stay at an average or above average weight for their height. While people with Anorexia may binge eat from time to time, they tend to exercise, diet, or eliminate food from their system so frequently that their body weight becomes dangerously low.
Who Has It?
Approximately 90 percent of the people diagnosed with Anorexia are female. It is a condition that is seen primarily in North America and Europe. It is rarely diagnosed in children before puberty or adults over age 40. In fact, Anorexia is most commonly diagnosed in females ages 13 to 21.
What are the Symptoms?
If you are wondering whether someone you know may have Anorexia, here are some critical characteristics to look for.
Body Weight Below Minimum Expectations for a Person's Age and Height
Health practitioners use the general rule of thumb of 85 percent of the expected weight for a person's height and age as a minimum weight standard. These figures are usually taken from publications such as the Metropolitan Life Insurance Height and Weight Tables or pediatric growth charts.
People with Anorexia typically go to extreme measures in order to lose weight. One sub-group, called the Restricting Type, attempts to lose weight through extreme dieting. When they eat, it is typically only very low calorie foods. They may also stop eating entirely for extended periods of time or exercise several times a day in order to burn off calories.
Another sub-group, the Binge-Eating /Purging Type, may also attempt to lose weight through diet or exercise regimens. However, these people also occasionally eat excessive amounts of high-calorie foods and may attempt to purge any food they have eaten. Purging means to try to eliminate any recently eaten food from the body. Purging includes such activities as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, enemas, and diuretics (medications that make one urinate).
While the person with this subtype of Anorexia may eat in binges more than once a week, they continue to succeed in their attempts to lose weight to the point that they become dangerously thin.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Florida. © 2008 University of Florida.
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