What is anorexia nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa, or “anorexia,” is a serious and complex psychiatric disorder (also referred to as mental illness). Its symptoms include a severe disturbance in eating behavior, the inability or refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, and an intense fear of gaining weight.
Disordered eating behaviors associated with anorexia include unhealthy weight loss and weight control methods (such as severe calorie restriction, food avoidance, or self-starvation) as well as inappropriate compensatory behaviors (such as excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, or laxative abuse).
Distorted self-perception of body shape and size is another hallmark of anorexia. Namely, people with anorexia may believe they are overweight and perceive themselves as fat even when they are underweight and extremely thin.
As with many other forms of mental illness, the symptoms associated with anorexia can be both confusing and frightening.
Indeed, the consequences of the illness can be extremely dangerous and even deadly. Anorexia nervosa can have devastating effects on a person’s physical, psychological, and social well-being. Yet for patients and their loved ones, gaining an understanding of the illness is the first step toward hope, healing, and recovery. Recovery from anorexia is possible and healing is attainable.
I had anorexia for several years without ever realizing it. It is a disorder characterized by a lot of denial. I never realized that how I felt or behaved was anything other than what was necessary to be a fit and competitive athlete. The circumstances and manifestations leading to a diagnosis are varied, but it can be most surprising to finally realize one day that you are in the grip of a very dangerous disorder. I look back now and see that if I could have understood more about anorexia and what was happening, I might have recovered much more quickly and lessened the resulting consequences. Breaking through that denial early on is very hard, but if successful, you can save yourself much further grief down the road.
Psychiatric disorder - A recognized, diagnosable illness that results in the impairment of a person’s cognitive abilities, emotional health, or interpersonal relationships; also called mental illness.