Anorexia Nervosa

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Eating Disorders Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideEating Disorders Pictures Slideshow: Understanding Binge Eating, Anorexia and Bulimia

Eating Disorders Pictures Slideshow: Understanding Binge Eating, Anorexia and Bulimia

What is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa, commonly referred to simply as anorexia, is one type of eating disorder. It is also a psychological disorder. Anorexia is a condition that goes beyond concern about obesity or out-of-control dieting. A person with anorexia often initially begins dieting to lose weight. Over time, the weight loss becomes a sign of mastery and control. The drive to become thinner is actually secondary to concerns about control and/or fears relating to one's body. The individual continues the ongoing cycle of restrictive eating, often accompanied by other behaviors such as excessive exercising or the overuse of diet pills to induce loss of appetite, and/or diuretics, laxatives, or enemas in order to reduce body weight, often to a point close to starvation in order to feel a sense of control over his or her body. This cycle becomes an obsession and, in this way, is similar to an addiction.

Who is at risk for anorexia nervosa?

A majority of those affected by anorexia are female, most often teenage girls, but males can develop the disorder as well. While anorexia typically begins to manifest itself during early adolescence, it is also seen in young children and adults. Although the disorder has received a lot of media attention, it is an uncommon condition. Caucasians are more often affected than people of other racial backgrounds, and anorexia is more common in middle and upper socioeconomic groups. 

Many experts consider people for whom thinness is especially desirable, or a professional requirement (such as athletes in sports like gymnastics, wrestling and jockeying, as well as models, dancers, and actors), to be at risk for eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. Health-care professionals are usually encouraged to present the facts about the dangers of anorexia through education of their patients and of the general public as a means of preventing this and other eating disorders.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/8/2016

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