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Anorexia Nervosa has received a lot of media attention as an eating disorder that affects an increasing number of young men and women throughout the western world. Most accurately it is described as a disorder of perception causing the sufferer to believe he/she is fat although he/she may be very thin. Physically, it is characterised by a progressive, self-inflicted reduction in food intake leading to severe weight loss and emaciation. It is a serious condition, which, if left untreated can be fatal. The condition usually starts with sufferers in their teens.
Sufferers usually maintain a below-average body weight for their height, can experience feelings of depression after eating, prefer to eat alone, may use laxatives to control their weight, spend a lot of time thinking about food or their diet, and may obsessively pursue an 'ideal' weight.
The effects on the body of self-induced weight loss can be very severe. Many female sufferers find that their periods stop and if the anorexia is untreated, excessive weight loss can cause the onset of osteoporosis. Anorexia can also cause damage to the heart, brain, kidneys and liver.
Treatment for anorexia will depend on the circumstances of the individual patient. Many patients may suffer depression with compulsive disorders that can be treated both with medication and counselling. There are also self-help groups run by people who themselves have suffered with eating disorders and are a good source of help and reference.