Anorexia nervosa is a disease approaching epidemic proportions in the United States. It is estimated that as many as 7 million women and 1 million men have the condition. It affects minorities and people of all socioeconomic levels. According to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD), 86% of people with anorexia report that the condition began before they reached age 20, and 10% reported onset before 10 years of age. Two-thirds of sufferers say that it lasts up to 10 years. Outpatient treatment may exceed $100,000 per case.
Some of the warning signs of the syndrome include: self-induced starvation in the face of significant weight loss and fear of gaining any weight; compulsive exercise (the person may actually be a successful athlete); sensitivity to cold (loss of body fat decreases insulation in the body); absent or irregular menstruation; hair loss or excessive body hair.
The person who has anorexia may be described as a perfectionist. Everything must be perfect for that person, especially the way his or her body looks. To that person, the body can never be too thin, and, in fact, he or she will view the body as overweight when it is obviously not. In the face of real starvation, the person is always hungry, frequently obsessed with food, but fights the impulse to eat. That person may prepare fancy meals for others, but appear to just pick at the food. Experts describe anorexic patients as having low self-esteem and as being depressed.
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