Anorexia nervosa (or anorexia) is an eating disorder that causes people to obsess about their weight and food. People with this disorder may have an intense fear of weight gain, even when they are underweight. They may diet or exercise too much or use other ways to lose weight.
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Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening eating disorder. The signs include an abnormally low body weight, self-starvation, fear of gaining weight and distorted perceptions of one's actual weight. People with anorexia nervosa have an intense fear of getting fat, even when they are very slender. They severely restrict the amount of food they eat and exercise excessively to lose weight.
Some people with anorexia nervosa make themselves vomit after eating or misuse laxatives or diet aids. People with anorexia nervosa use food and eating as a way to gain control over their lives, including relationships with other people. For them, being thin is tied into their own sense of self-worth.
People with anorexia nervosa are usually high achievers in school, sports and work. Participation in certain activities of which weight and appearance are important (e.g., dancers, models, actors, gymnasts and figure skaters) may increase one's risk of developing an eating disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is more common in females than males, and usually begins around puberty. However, it can develop at any time.