Anorexia Nervosa

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“Famine is in thy cheeks.” William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English poet and playwright Romeo and Juliet, Act v. Sc.1 (1596)I suppose that since there is a thriving multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, none of us are succeeding, except perhaps, anorexics.But victims of this eating disorder suffer a Cadmean victory over fat and left to themselves, die skin and bones.Definition. According to the US National Institutes of Health, anorexia nervosa is an “eating disorder that involves limiting the amount of food a person eats . . . resulting in starvation and an inability to stay at the minimum body weight considered healthy” (for age and height). At some point, it becomes a psychiatric issue because the victim has an intense fear of weight gain even when in fact she/he is underweight.Causes. A person with an anorexic mother or sister is highly susceptible, as well as individuals with low self-esteem or with perfectionism by nature – quite similar to bulimia (see last week). Now add to these OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and applying it to food, see how strict dieting is possible even if hunger pangs seem overwhelming. The neurotransmitter serotonin, the same brain chemical associated with depression, may play a role in anorexia nervosa.Diagnostic Criteria. In the mental health professional’s DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), anorexia nervosa has four features: refusal to maintain a body weight at or above the minimum weight by age and height; pathologic fear of gaining weight even if underweight; having a distorted body image; in women with periods, absence of at least three menstrual cycles. …