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Anorexia Nervosa - Definition, Symptoms & Causes

Anorexia nervosa is one of the eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa is characterised by being underweight. There is a fear and refusal around being a weight that is age and height appropriate. Anorexia nervosa involves a preoccupation with body image and shape and weight, excessive weighing and body measuring, distorted eating and weight loss behaviours, and a lack of regard for the consequences of being underweight. Anorexia nervosa usually develops in males and females during adolescence.

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa may include a denial of personal difficulties, and distorted eating and weight loss behaviours, such as a reduction in food intake, self induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, or excessive exercise. In anorexia nervosa, a fear of being overweight may not be alleviated by weight loss. Anorexia nervosa may also involve distress, guilt, irritability, an obsessive use of scales and mirrors, serious physical problems and a lack of insight about them, or social withdrawal and isolation.

Causes of Anorexia Nervosa

In anorexia nervosa, self esteem may be dependent on body shape and weight. There may be a belief that weight loss is an achievement and weight gain is a failure. Anorexia nervosa may be related to anxiety, being overweight in the past, bereavement, or cultural factors. Anorexia nervosa may also be related to depression, emotional abuse, family relationships, having first degree relatives with anorexia nervosa, an oral fixation, obsessiveness, perfectionism, Personality Disorders (PD), sexual abuse, or stress.

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Updated 06 July 2011