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Anorexia nervosa is an illness that is characterized by an incessant drive for thinness and fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia will restrict their calories, sometimes exercise excessively, and some may use purging behaviors. Someone with anorexia may display a sudden drop in weight, have strict food rules, show anxiety about weight gain, have elements of body dysmorphia, and socially isolate themselves so that they may practice restrictive food rituals in private. Anorexia is far more extreme than normal dieting behaviors and the person's life generally becomes consumed with food and weight.
Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. Psychologically, people with this diagnosis may suffer from depression, anxiety, social isolation and perfectionism. Physically, the restriction of food can have severe health consequences. Among others, these may include dry skin, hair loss, low body temperature, slow heart rate, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, the loss of bone density (osteoporosis), loss of sex drive and reproductive function, and severe dehydration. Women also can stop menstruating.
There are many reasons why anorexia may develop including biological factors such as temperament and genetics, psychological factors such as anxiety, and social factors such as bullying or a traumatic experience. Recovery is possible but it is important that people with anorexia seek professional help and treatment from an experienced provider as early on as possible.