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Last Updated on : 19th Apr, 2013

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Anorexia Nervosa

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Even though anorexia nervosa (AN) was first recognized well over a century ago, this dangerous disorder continues to bewilder patients and their families, as well as challenge mental health clinicians and researchers. Hallmark symptoms of AN include weight loss or failure to gain weight (i.e., less than 85% of that expected for an individual's height and age), intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat despite a low body weight, and distorted perceptions of one's weight and shape.

Additional features of AN include a relentless pursuit of thinness and overvaluation of body shape, which usually results in extreme dietary restriction and physical activity. As a consequence of semi-starvation, pubescent females suffering from AN experience disruption or even cessation of their menstrual cycles. Often these symptoms are accompanied by an adolescent's denial of the seriousness of their illness, which can present a major obstacle to treatment. Above all, it should be cautioned that AN has a very high mortality rate, with common causes of death including complications of starvation and suicide.

As can be seen below, family therapy currently has the most research evidence for the treatment of adolescents with anorexia nervosa.

Adolescent Anorexia Nervosa (AN)

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Source: Keel, P. K., & Haedt, A. (2008). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for eating problems and eating disorders. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37, 39-61.

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