Anorexia Nervosa

Female with symptoms of anorexia nervosa

Anorexia is a medical term that means a lack of appetite.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that usually occurs in young white women in Western society. It is almost unknown in American Negroes and British Indians, and totally unknown in third-world countries. About one in every 200 women between 13 and 30 in developed countries may be affected.

It may start with a psychological shock (e.g. rejection by a boy friend, fear of a new situation, stress at school, bad sexual experience) and is due to an inappropriate body image which makes the patient feel grossly overweight, or have an abnormal fear of becoming overweight, when they may be normal or underweight.

Patients develop an extreme dislike of food accompanied by excessive exercising, a cessation of menstrual periods, diffuse hair loss, intolerance of cold, slow pulse, irregular heart beat and complex hormonal disorders.

They may practice deceit to fool their family and doctors by appearing to eat normal meals but later vomit the food, use purgatives to clean out their bowel, or hide food during the meal. With time, they may become seriously undernourished and emaciated, to the point of death, if adequate treatment is not available.

Diagnosis of anorexia nervosa is quite difficult. No specific blood or other test that can confirm the diagnosis, but tests may be undertaken to ensure that there is no other cause for the weight loss or lack of appetite.

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