The cause of anorexia nervosa is unknown. Both biological and social factors play a part. People in certain professions, such as modeling and ballet dancing, are especially at risk.
In severe cases anorexia should be treated by a full medical team ideally to include a GP, a psychiatrist and various therapists including hypnotherapists.
Where lesser eating behaviours are present hypnotherapy can instill new healthy eating patterns, improve self-esteem / self-image / self-confience and can also address underlying issues if required.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder affecting mainly girls or women, although boys or men can also suffer from it. It usually starts in the teenage years.
It is difficult to estimate how common it is but surveys suggest that up to 1 per cent of schoolgirls and female university students have anorexia nervosa. This may be an underestimate.
How is the disease characterised?
Body weight is maintained at least 15 per cent below that expected for a person's height.
It is self-induced weight loss caused by avoiding fattening foods and may involve taking excessive exercise, using laxatives or diuretics or self-induced vomiting.
There is a strong, almost overwhelming fear of putting on weight, with sufferers preoccupied with the shape or size of their bodies.
Rules are invented regarding how much food is allowed and how much exercise is needed after eating certain amounts of food.
Those suffering from anorexia pursue a very low 'ideal' weight.
The weight loss may cause hormonal disturbances and women with anorexia nervosa may stop having periods.
Why do some people get anorexia?
The cause of anorexia nervosa is unknown, although it is likely that both inherent biological factors and factors in the patient's social environment play a part. The disease is mainly encountered in the western world and is more common among women in certain professions, such as models and ballet dancers. Puberty, deaths in the family and other life stresses are all believed to be potential triggers of anorexia.
What are the signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa?
Weight loss of at least 15 per cent below the normal ideal body weight for a person of the same age and height.
Cessation of periods or delayed development in puberty.
Self-induced weight loss. Methods can include fasting, low food intake, excessive exercise, diuretic medicines (medicines that make you urinate more) laxatives, diet pills or vomiting. Sometimes people make themselves sick to lose weight. Others take excessive exercise.
Sufferers have a constant fear of gaining weight, as well as a feeling of being fat, even when their weight is much less than that of other people of the same height.
Sufferers may feel bloated, even after a small meal.
They may lose interest in socialising with friends.
Other side effects include tiredness, feeling cold, constipation and stomachache.
Some patients also develop additional disorders such as bulimia.
How long can anorexia last?
The sooner the treatment is started, the better the chance of recovery. However, anorexia may last for months or years, and it can take many more years before normal weight is regained.
People who do not receive treatment may become chronically ill or even die.
Long spells without adequate intake of food can cause osteoporosis (fragile bones) and damage to the heart, liver, kidneys and brain.
Anorexia can impede growth in the young and cause difficulties in concentration.
People with anorexia nervosa may also experience mental health problems such as depression and increased risk of suicide.
Diagnostic and statistical manual criteria (DSM)