Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder wherein people severely obsess about weight and food. They attempt to weigh far below normal for their age and height. In order to keep from gaining weight or to continue losing weight, they may starve themselves and/or exercise excessively, and purge on occasion using diuretics, laxatives, and enemas as well as vomiting after eating.
Anorexia nervosa isn’t about food. It’s unhealthy, misguided, injurious behavior constructed to achieve and maintain a sense of emotional stability. People with anorexia often equate thinness with self-worth.
Anorexia nervosa can be difficult to overcome. That said, with professional treatment and counseling a person can gain a healthier sense of self, embrace nutritious eating habits and reverse some of anorexia’s serious complications.
There are a number of physical, emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms of anorexia:
Physical signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa:
- Extreme weight loss–approaching 75%-85% of normal weight
- Thin appearance–often hidden under layers of clothing unsuitable for the temperature
- Abnormal blood counts
- Dizziness or fainting
- A bluish discoloration of the fingers
- Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
- Soft, downy hair covering the body
- Absence of menstruation
- Dry skin
- Intolerance of cold
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Low blood pressure
- Swelling of arms or legs
Emotional and behavioral characteristics associated with anorexia include:
- Refusal to eat
- Denial of hunger
- Extreme fear of gaining weight
- Lying about how much food has been eaten
- Excessive exercise
- Flat mood (lack of emotion)
- Social withdrawal
- Preoccupation with food
- Reduced interest in sex
- Depressed mood
- Possible use of laxatives, diet aids or herbal products
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