Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder. If you have anorexia, you see yourself as being overweight when you are not. You are so afraid of becoming overweight that you eat as little as possible.
Anorexia can be both a very severe physical and mental illness. You could die from starvation or you may think about suicide. If you are pregnant, anorexia can affect your health and your baby’s growth.
The exact cause of anorexia is not known. Part of the cause in many cultures is thinking that being thin means being beautiful. This illness is most common in teens and young women. Athletes, dancers, models, and actors who focus on low weight to perform better may also develop anorexia.
You may be at risk of developing anorexia if you:
Signs and symptoms may include:
If you are a woman and you exercise a lot or your weight gets very low, you may not have monthly periods. Hormone changes result from low weight and low levels of body fat.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. He will ask about your eating habits and other behaviors.
Anorexia does not go away or get better on its own. Treatment involves learning healthy eating habits. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you meet with a dietitian to create a healthy eating plan. You may need therapy to help you change how you think about yourself and food.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a way to help you identify and change views you have of yourself, the world, and the future. CBT can make you aware of unhealthy ways of thinking. It can also help you learn new thought and behavior patterns.
Family therapy may be helpful. Family therapy treats all members of the family rather than working with one person alone. It helps the whole family to make changes.
There are no medicines known to treat anorexia nervosa. Medicine may be prescribed if you also have problems with anxiety or depression.
You may need to be hospitalized if your condition is severe and life threatening.
If you have anorexia, you may think constantly about weight and food for many years. Even after you reach a healthy weight, you may need to continue treatment for many months. Being under a lot of stress can cause your symptoms to get worse. The earlier you seek treatment, the more successful it is likely to be.
Get emergency care if you or a loved one has serious thoughts of suicide or harming others.
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