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(1) Anorexia

 Introduction

 Perhaps no mental illness is as misunderstood as anorexia nervosa.

Misconceptions about the condition abound. For example, people may wonder: Is it a disease or a choice? Are people with anorexia merely trying to get attention, or is it a serious condition? Is it a “new” illness, or is the illness simply receiving more publicity of late?

Anorexia Nervosa is an effort to provide accurate, helpful information about this much-misunderstood illness. It was designed to assist patients, families, and other interested parties in obtaining important information about anorexia nervosa and to explain the illness’s background, causes, warning signs, complications, and consequences. Related issues, such as body image and nutrition, are also addressed.

Of course, a substantial part of this course discusses treatment as well as support for loved ones of anorexia patients. You will find we try to be no less direct and straightforward in the course. You will notice we often shorten the term “anorexia nervosa” to simply “anorexia.” This abbreviation occurs frequently in professional practice.

Sometimes, we use the terms “anorexia” and “eating disorder” interchangeably, as anorexia is one form of a broader category of eating disorders. The vast majority of anorexia patients are indeed female; the illness has too long been stereotyped as a “female disease.” Anorexia is an illness, separate from those who suffer from it. It is not one’s identity, as the term “anorexic” may incorrectly imply.

We wish anorexia and other eating disorders were not a threat to the lives and livelihood of countless girls and boys, women and men.

We wish the young girls and boys who believe they are not “good enough” because they do not have the “perfect” body would see themselves as they really are-beautiful, irrespective of their weight or body type.

We wish millions of families did not have to go through the pain and anguish of witnessing a loved one suffer from this illness.

We wish those who exercise to the point of exhaustion would find rest from the compulsion that drives them to rid their bodies of unwanted calories.

We wish no one would ever again encounter the belief that being thin is more important than being healthy. I wish a person at the brink of starvation would never again utter the phrase “you can never be too thin.”

We wish anorexia nervosa would not damage even one more body or mind.

We wish no one-not even one more malnourished individual-would feel guilty for eating.

We wish anorexia nervosa were no more.

Anorexia nervosa is a severe illness that daily threatens the health and wellbeing of those affected by it. It threatens to confuse and confound families even as it deprives its sufferers of a healthy body and mind.

Although we are still a long way from seeing our wishes fulfilled, researchers continue to investigate the causes of this devastating illness, educators strive to increase understanding about anorexia in their communities, and healthcare providers work to enhance effective treatments for the disorder  wish of recovery, the wish of living a healthy and balanced life, the wish of finding support in the midst of great trial, the wish of sparing a loved one on the brink of anorexia the pain of this illness, the wish of feeling better equipped to share about anorexia with someone they love.

Our hope is that patients and loved ones can find support and answers to the many questions they face.

Our hope is that interested professionals might feel better equipped to understand the illness and share that understanding with others. 

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