Anorexia Nervosa, in medicine, a condition characterized by intense fear of gaining weight or becoming obese, as well as a distorted body image, leading to an excessive weight loss from restricting food intake and excessive exercise. Anorexia nervosa is not associated with any preexisting physical illness. It is found chiefly in adolescents, especially young women. Between 5 and 18 percent of known anorexia nervosa victims die of starvation, and the condition may also lead to abnormalities in the menstrual cycle (see Menstruation) and increased susceptibility to infection. Persons with the condition may also exhibit the practice, known as bulimia, of ingesting large quantities of food and then voiding it through self-induced vomiting in order to remain thin. Repeated vomiting depletes the body of fluids and of the element potassium, and the disturbance can adversely affect heart function.

No generally recognized therapy for anorexia nervosa exists. It is often associated with depression and low self-esteem, and patients may benefit from treatment with antidepressant drugs. Psychotherapy, including family therapy, often helps, and about half of the cases resolve themselves without relapses. The behavioral problem may lead to actual chemical disorders in the body, however, that aggravate the condition.

Because many persons with anorexia nervosa never seek medical treatment, the exact prevalence of the condition is unknown. Studies indicate that it may develop in as many as 1 percent of the young women in the United States. Bulimia, an eating disorder in which persistent overconcern with body weight and shape leads to repeated episodes of binging (consuming large amounts of food in a short time) associated with induced vomiting, use of laxatives, fasting, and / or excessive exercise to control weight. Bulimia was classified as a distinct disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980; the name was changed to bulimia nervosa in 1987. Sometimes bulimic behavior is observed in cases of anorexia nervosa, or abnormal dieting, but bulimia in itself does not result in severe weight loss.

It can, however, cause gastrointestinal problems and serious potassium depletion, and teeth may be damaged due to the acid nature of the regurgitated food. Bulimia usually depletion, and teeth may be damaged due to the acid nature of the regurgitated food. Bulimia usually develops during adolescence (most commonly among females) as a result of various psychological pressures, the most obvious one being the social emphasis on the desirability of slimness. Various modes of group and behavioral therapy are used in treating the disorder. Because patients with bulimia often suffer from depression as well, antidepressant drugs may be effective.

Anorexia nervosa essentially is self-starvation. Vomiting and abuse of laxatives, diuretics or exercise may be additional elements in an anorexic person? ? s effort to control weight. Bulimia nervosa involves "binge eating and purging'? V consuming large, high-calorie meals and vomiting and / or taking laxatives in an attempt to expel the food before it can be absorbed by the body. Anorexia and bulimia are much less prevalent than obesity, which is the No. 1 eating disorder among adolescents and adults. However, the incidence of anorexia and bulimia is rising among teenage girls and young women.

Up to 1 percent of girls between 13 and 17 develop anorexia nervosa. Bulimia is more common among a slighter older age group, occurring in 2 percent to 4 percent of women in their late teens and twenties. Males can develop either disorder. But females generally more conscious about weight and fashion are many times more vulnerable. Eating disorders– anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are psychiatric illnesses that affect over five million American women and men. This figure may not seem terribly high until we realize that thousands of these people will die from the physical problems caused by these conditions.

Eating disorders are not just the extremes of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Dangerous fad diets are also widespread in this country. In a society where thinness is equated with success and happiness, nearly every American woman, man and child has suffered at one time or another from issues of weight, body shape and self-image. The depression, shame and agonizing sense of isolation caused by eating disorders disrupts families, interrupts schooling, damages careers bright with promise and destroys relationships. Without treatment, the future for men and women with eating disorders is bleak. But with psychological counseling and medical evaluations (sometimes in conjunction with nutritional counseling and medication), people can recover.

Sufferers can develop appropriate inner resources and look forward to living normal, productive and happy lives.