Anorexia nervosa is a major mental illness that is associated with extreme weight loss and a skewed perception of one's body. This illness is diagnosed when someone refuses to keep their body weight at an average weight for his or her age and height. In addition to excessive weight loss, other characteristics of anorexia include irregular menstrual periods, thin hair, hypersensitivity to cold, and skin that appears yellow. Continuous dieting is also typically coupled with obsessional exercise.
There are multiple factors that can lead to eating disorders. Different family related influences have been shown to provoke eating disorders. People who have relatives with anorexia are eight times more likely to have the disorder as well. Researchers believe anorexia may be linked to certain chromosomes. Another explanation for the disorder being genetically related is that twins often experience the same eating disorders. Although the media is believed to play a role in people's eating disorders, these illnesses around found all over the world and can be seen throughout history.
The most common cause of death in people with anorexia is heart disease. Pregnant women with anorexia are more likely to have miscarriages or give birth to a child with low birth weight or different birth defects. 90% of women with this disorder have osteopenia and 40% have osteoporosis due to low estrogen levels. Nerve damage can occur in those who suffer from severe anorexia and things such as seizures, disordered thinking, and numbness occurs.
There is no treatment for anorexia that is believed to be one hundred percent effective. People recover at a rate of about 4 to 27 percent. This recovery process takes about five to six years under strict medical supervision.