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Anorexia Nervosa Each year millions of people in the United States are affected by serious and sometimes life-threatening eating disorders The vast majority are adolescents and young adult women Approximately one percent of adolescent girls develops anorexia nervosa a dangerous condition in which they can literally starve themselves to death The reasons for difficulties around the issues of food and eating are myriad and complex and no single answer sufficiently explains the phenomenon of women who undereat as a response to stress Psychological familial biological and social factors all contribute to this disorder which makes anorexia nervosa a complicated disease to successfully treat Treatment is typically tailored to the needs of the individual and may involve individual and family counseling as well as hospitalization and chemical treatments Nevertheless some people with eating disorders refuse to admit that they have a problem and do not get treatment Fortunately increasi ng awareness of the dangers of eating disorders sparked by medical studies and extensive media coverage has led many people to seek help The Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV a manual for psychologists outlining the characteristics of mental disorders provides the guidelines for recognizing anorexia nervosa The foremost indication of this eating disorder is the refusal to maintain a body weight over 85 of the accepted weight for the individuals height and body frame This is also accompanied by an intense and pervasive fear of gaining weight and in females the onset of amenorrhea or the cessation of menstruation Lastly there is a distorted body image of the individual or a denial of the weight loss The anorexic state has a number of possible consequences including lanugo hair soft downy hair over the body yellowish skin low blood pressure low body temperature and constipation Vandereycken and Meerman 1984 In addition 50 of anorexics show bulimic symptoms such as vomiting and laxative abuse which has its own problems including erosion of teeth by gastric acids parotid gland
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