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What is Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa, usually shortened to anorexia, is an eating disorder that involves very low body weight, fear of gaining weight, and the use of extreme behaviors to stay underweight.

Many people who have anorexia strive to be thin by severely restricting food intake, nearly to the point of starvation. Others exercise excessively, use laxatives, or intentionally vomit in an attempt to lose weight. Despite being underweight, those with anorexia often view themselves as overweight.

The What is Anorexia? info sheet provides an overview of the disorder, including anorexia signs and symptoms, frequently asked questions, and basic information about treatment. Use this handout to introduce clients and their families to the topic of anorexia and provide basic education.

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References

1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.

2. Bulik, C. M., Baucom, D. H., Kirby, J. S., & Pisetsky, E. (2011). Uniting couples (in the treatment of) anorexia nervosa (UCAN). International Journal of Eating Disorders, 44(1), 19-28.

3. Guillaume, S., Jaussent, I., Olie, E., Genty, C., Bringer, J., Courtet, P., & Schmidt, U. (2011). Characteristics of suicide attempts in anorexia and bulimia nervosa: a case-control study. PLoS One, 6(8).

4. Harrington, B. C., Jimerson, M., Haxton, C., & Jimerson, D. C. (2015). Initial evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Am Fam Physician, 91(1), 46-52.

5. Hildebrandt, T., Bacow, T., Markella, M., & Loeb, K. L. (2012). Anxiety in anorexia nervosa and its management using family‐based treatment. European Eating Disorders Review, 20(1), e1-e16.

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7. Ozier, A. D., & Henry, B. W. (2011). Position of the American Dietetic Association: nutrition intervention in the treatment of eating disorders. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(8), 1236-1241.

8. Steinglass, J. E., Sysko, R., Mayer, L., Berner, L. A., Schebendach, J., Wang, Y., ... & Walsh, B. T. (2010). Pre-meal anxiety and food intake in anorexia nervosa. Appetite, 55(2), 214-218.

9. Treasure, J., & Russell, G. (2011). The case for early intervention in anorexia nervosa: theoretical exploration of maintaining factors. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 199(1), 5-7.

10. Watson, H. J., & Bulik, C. M. (2013). Update on the treatment of anorexia nervosa: review of clinical trials, practice guidelines and emerging interventions. Psychological medicine, 43(12), 2477-2500.

11. Wilson, G. T., Grilo, C. M., & Vitousek, K. M. (2007). Psychological treatment of eating disorders. American Psychologist, 62(3), 199.

12. Zipfel, S., Giel, K. E., Bulik, C. M., Hay, P., & Schmidt, U. (2015). Anorexia nervosa: aetiology, assessment, and treatment. The lancet psychiatry, 2(12), 1099-1111.

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