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The scientific name for anorexia is anorexia nervosa. People with anorexia become completely obsessed with weight and dieting. They develop a fear of becoming fat and have a distorted mental image of their body, always seeing themselves as fat, even when they are extremely thin.
Common attributes of anorexic sufferers are under-eating, vigorous exercise, ritualistic food habits and abuse of laxatives cause excessive loss of weight.
Most anorexic people have no history of being overweight.
Who's affected by anorexia?
Anorexia nervosa usually starts in the mid-teens, although it can start at any age. Women are more likely than men to have anorexia - about 90 per cent of those affected are female.
It's estimated about three or four people in every 100 have anorexia. Most deny they have a problem and many have depression. If a family member has had anorexia in the past, it is more likely for a relative will have anorexia.
What are the effects of anorexia?
Lack of food deprives the body of essential protein and prevents the normal metabolism of fat, resulting in:
Can anorexia be prevented?
It's difficult to prevent anorexia from developing because it's unclear precisely why the condition occurs. But it may be possible to avoid or address some risk factors, such as social and cultural pressures to be thin, bullying, low self-esteem and family dysfunction. The most important step is recognition by the individual that they've got a problem.
What is the treatment for anorexia?
After assessment by a psychiatrist at a specialist eating disorders unit, counselling, antidepressants and advice on healthy eating may be offered.
Admission to hospital is often needed to treat any physical problems that have resulted from under-eating.