As many as 1-3% of females have been estimated to suffer from Anorexia Nervosa in their lifetime. Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa include:
- Body weight either falling to 85% of normal for height among adults, or failure to achieve 85% of normal weight for age and height among children and adolescents
- Experiencing intense fears of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight
- A marked disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight
- Infrequent or absent menstrual periods (in females who have reached puberty)
People with this disorder see themselves as overweight even though they are dangerously thin. The process of eating becomes an obsession. Unusual eating habits develop, such as avoiding food and meals, picking out a few foods and eating these in small quantities, or carefully weighing and portioning food. People with anorexia may repeatedly check their body weight, and many engage in other techniques to control their weight, such as intense and compulsive exercise, or purging by means of vomiting and abuse of laxatives, enemas, and diuretics. Girls with anorexia often experience a delayed onset of their first menstrual period.
Some individuals with Anorexia Nervosa will fully recover after a single episode. Others may have a fluctuating pattern of weight gain and relapse; and others may experience a chronic course of the illness over many years. The mortality rate among people with anorexia has been estimated to be approximately 5% per decade. When untreated, mortality is a risk; however, the risk of death while actively involved in treatment is very, very rare. The most common causes of death are complications of the disorder, such as cardiac arrest or electrolyte imbalances.