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Anorexia nervosa is an eating problem that occurs when you are so
afraid of becoming overweight that you eat as little as possible.
If you have this disorder, you see yourself as being overweight
when you are not.
This condition is both a physical illness and a mental illness.
Hormone changes result from the low weight and low levels of body
fat. In women menstruation usually stops.
This illness occurs most often in young women. The illness can
also occur in athletes, dancers, models, and actors who want to
maintain low weight for better performance.
Anorexia nervosa can be a very severe illness. Death may occur
from starvation or suicide. If you are pregnant, eating disorders
can affect your health and your baby's development.
The cause of anorexia nervosa is not clear. Part of the cause in
many cultures is thinking that being thin means being beautiful.
You may be at risk of developing anorexia nervosa if you:
Signs and symptoms may include:
Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam, order lab tests,
and ask about your medical history. He or she will ask about your
eating and other behaviors, such as:
Anorexia can be very difficult to treat. It does not go away or
get better on its own. Your healthcare provider or dietitian will
help you to start eating normally again. Also, you will probably
need individual psychotherapy and possibly family therapy. Your
healthcare provider may prescribe medicine (especially medicine
used for mood disorders) to:
You may need to be hospitalized if your condition is severe and
If you have anorexia, you may stay preoccupied with weight and
food for many years. Even after you reach a healthy weight, you
may need to continue taking medicine or having therapy for many
months. Being under a lot of stress can cause a relapse. The
earlier you seek treatment, the more successful it is likely to
Besides following your provider's treatment plan and developing a
support network, you can:
Accepting yourself and your body can help prevent this problem. In
addition you can:
You may want to contact:
Mental Health America (formerly the National Mental Health
Association or NMHA). The toll-free number is 800-969-6642. The
Web site is http://www.NMHA.org.
National Eating Disorders Association. Their toll-free number is:
800-931-2237. The Web site is