Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive quest for thinness and a dread of being fat. A person suffering from the disorder has a distorted body-image and sees himself/herself as fat when looking in a mirror despite being grossly underweight. This paper will look at theories of the causes of anorexia nervosa, its diagnosis, a brief outline of available treatments, and the social implications of the disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder which occurs when a person is unrealistically concerned about being overweight to the point of having a disordered self-image (Cooper, 1997; Soren, 1995). Symptoms include weight loss, usually severe;
tiredness, thinning hair, and cessation of menstruation in women. Purging and laxative-abuse are often used to avoid weight gain. The disorder is both a physical and a psychiatric one, according to some sources (Cooper, 1997), but strictly a psychiatric according to others (Soren, 1995).
Victims of the disorder are considered to believe themselves overweight even when they are emaciated, and may starve themselves to the point of death. Sullivan (1995) reported that the mortality rate for patients with anorexia nervosa is greater than that of the general population, and also greater than that of women in psychiatric hospitals. He combined data from 42 published studies involving 3,000 individuals with anorexia nervosa. He found that the annual death rate for young women aged from 15 to 24 was 12 times as high for anorexia nervosa patients as for young women in the general population. This rate is also twice that of a national study of female psychiatric inpatients aged from 10 to 39 years.
Anorexia nervosa is not a new disease, having been reported in the medical literature as early as 1874 (Bergh & Sodersten, 1998), when Sir William Gill named the disorder which he observed in several young women of the time. Although he recognized it as potential...