Anorexia Nervosa

Also known as: anorexia, AN

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa, or simply anorexia, is a severe debilitating eating disorder that occurs most frequently in girls (from all socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnic and racial groups) that is characterized by a distorted view of their body that leads them to believe they're overweight and need to restrict how much they eat, over exercise, and/or perform other behaviors that prevents them from gaining weight, almost to starvation.

There are two types of AN;

  1. Restrictor type, characterized by decreased food intake.

  2. Bulimia, also called binge-eating or purging type. Please see Bulimia for further information.


What causes anorexia nervosa? 

The cause is unknown, however genetic, family influences, societal attitudes towards body image and other mental health issues (e.g. anxiety, dependent children who are emotionally immature etc.), may all play a role in its development.


What are the symptoms of anorexia nervosa? 

Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

  • Low body weight

  • Over exercising

  • Denial of hunger

  • Peculiar eating patterns

  • Irritability

  • Being moody or depressed

Symptoms associated with malnutrition/starvation are also common:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Yellow or dry skin
  • Dehydration
  • Osteoporosis
  • Loss of menstrual periods (in girls)
  • and a wide variety of other complications due to malnourishment


What are anorexia nervosa care options? 

Treatments depend on your child's age, how sick they are, medical history, family structure, other mental issues, etc.

Most adolescents will be managed by an individual and family based approach, behavioral modification to develop a healthy attitude towards weight and body image, and nutritional counseling/support which helps parents and child move towards restoring body weight.

Medication/s and hospitalization may be beneficial.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 11/9/2017 9:33:51 AM

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