A psychiatric illness in which the patients starve themselves or use other techniques, such as vomiting or taking laxatives, to induce weight loss. To fulfil ICD-10 criteria for anorexia nervosa a patient must have a distorted body image (thinking they are overweight when they are not), a defined weight loss or body mass index reduction, amenorrhoea, and vomiting or purging. The illness is most common in female adolescents, but about 10% of sufferers are male. There is a significant mortality associated with anorexia nervosa because of the medical consequences of weight loss. The causes of the illness are not well understood: problems within the family, rejection of adult sexuality, self-harming behaviour in the context of a borderline-type emotionally unstable personality disorder, and performance pressure are hypothesized as factors involved. Patients must be persuaded to eat enough to maintain a normal body weight and their emotional disturbance is usually treated with psychotherapy supported by a dietitian and possibly the community mental health team. See also bulimia.
Subjects: Medicine and Health.