Anorexia Nervosa

Manila Bulletin, July 20, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Anorexia Nervosa


Q. I have an overweight friend who started dieting about a year ago. The problem is she hasn’t stopped dieting since and is already very thin. Is she not suffering from anorexia nervosa yet? Please write about anorexia nervosa, especially the health problems that are associated with it.      Minerva A, Olongapo CityA. She could be. After all, in many cases of anorexia nervosa, restriction of food intake often starts, like in your friend’s situation, as a voluntary behavior aimed at reducing ones weight to what society considers being thin, but at some point, the behavior becomes pathologic.Anorexia nervosa is the most serious of the eating disorders, which also include bulimia nervosa. Both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa result from a pathologic fear of being obese or overweight leading to faulty eating habits. But the two conditions differ. Anorexia involves restricting food intake while bulimia is characterized by eating binges that are followed by compensatory behavior such as vomiting or laxative abuse. About half of all people with anorexia also suffer from bulimia. Anorexia nervosa affects females more than males; 85 to 95 percent of those that suffer from the condition are females. It is more common among teenagers than the other age groups and affects primarily those belonging to the middle and upper social classes. There are no statistics regarding eating disorders among Filipinos, but in western societies, it is estimated that between 0.5 to 3.7 percent of females will suffer from anorexia nervosa within their lifetime.People with anorexia nervosa are obsessed with becoming and remaining thin. Worse, they believe themselves to be still fat even when they are already emaciated. They literally starve themselves, sometimes to death. They avoid high-calorie foods and pick out a few food items which they eat in small amounts.The exact reason people develop anorexia nervosa is not known. It is generally believed that the disorder is an attempt to cope with emotional problems.

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