Eating disorders are serious issues in American society. One of the 3 eating disorders, Anorexia Nervosa affects approximately 0.5% of American women and 0.05% of American men, according to the American Psychological Association (2000). Not only do individuals with Anorexia Nervosa suffer physically, they also suffer mentally as well.
What is Anorexia Nervosa exactly?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines Anorexia Nervosa with these specific criteria:
1. Refusal to maintain a minimal body weight (less than 85% of weight expected for age and height).
2. An intense fear of becoming fat or gaining weight.
3. Denial of unhealthily low weight, basing one's self-evaluation on his/her weight, or a disturbance in the way in which one experiences his/her body shape or weight.
4. Amenorrhea, the absence of menstrual cycles for at least three consecutive months (in postmenarchael women) or the presence of menstruation only when on hormones such as estrogen.
Anorexia Nervosa has two subtypes:
Restricting type - during the current episode of Anorexia the individual has not engaged in any binge-esting or purging behaviors. Binge-eating is classified as consuming significantly more calories in one sitting than what is considered "typical" for that culture. Purging behaviors could include the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or self-induced vomiting.
Binge-eating/purging type - During the current episode of Anorexia the individual has engaged in binge-eating and/or purging on a regular basis.
Nancy is a college freshman this year. She has difficult adapting to change and misses her friends and family very much. Nancy became concerned about her weight when her roommate said she could stand to lose a few pounds at the gym with her. It has been six months since Nancy's roommate expressed this judgement, but Nancy continues to worry about her weight. Nancy keeps a chart of the food and calories she consumes, eats very little, and exercises multiple hours a day. Yet she manages to keep good grades.
Friends and family have expressed concern for Nancy, telling her she has gotten too thin and that she needs to eat more. Nancy, however, sees herself as extremely fat and feels she needs to lose more weight.
At her last doctor's visit, Nancy admistted that she has not had her menstrual cycle for four months now, but refuses to go into treatment for her eating disorder, insisting that she doesn't have a problem.
Anorexia Nervosa is a serious condition, and those who suffer from it often face serious medical complications and sometimes even death as a resulf of the lack of nutrients being put into the body and dangerously low body weight.
This post is the first of a series of posts on eating disorders. Later this week, I will discuss how to recognize Anorexia Nervosa in family and friends, how to help those who suffer with the condition, and the medical consequences that result from Anorexia.