Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that occurs when a person is unrealistically concerned about being overweight or feels an overwhelming need to be so thin that in either case she/he eats so little she/he becomes malnourished. Anorexia nervosa is a disease with both physical and psychological components. Its victims can literally starve themselves to death. Others may suffer from cardiac arrest as a result of malnutrition, while still others commit suicide (â€œAnorexiaâ€ 211, 213). .
There are two types of anorexia nervosa: restricting and binge-eating/purging subtypes. Restricting subtype anorexics strictly limit food intake and may engage in driven, excessive exercise. Binge-eating/purging subtype anorexics may engage in self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives or enemas and also may experience episodes of binge-eating (â€œAnorexiaâ€ 211).
Anorexia nervosa tends to occur in adolescence, but can develop at any life change. It predominately affects adolescent girls, although it can also occur in men and older women. Conservative estimates suggest that Â½-1% of females in the U.S. develop anorexia. The starvation experienced by persons with anorexia nervosa can cause damage to vital organs such as the heart. Anorexia nervosa has among the highest mortality rates of all mental disorders (â€œAnorexiaâ€ 211).
Knowledge about the causes of anorexia is unknown, and the causes may be varied. It appears to result from a number of different social, biological and psychological factors acting together. In many societies, being extremely thin is the standard of beauty. Women are bombarded with messages from the media that they must diet to meet this standard. Some adolescent girls develop anorexia nervosa by trying to copycat other girls(â€œAnorexiaâ€ 211). However, this idealized ultra-thin body shape is almost impossible for most women to achieve since it does not fit with the biological and inherited factors that determine natural body weight.