Actually defining anorexia nervosa can be very difficult as the illness can be much more complicated than simple starvation/food restriction due to body image concerns. The definition below has been adapted from Treasure (2005)
Anorexia Nervosa is a mental health condition where the individual has extreme difficulty in maintaining weight which is compatible to their health. Gaining weight is an alarming prospect and can lead to a number of further behaviours which endanger health. For the person with anorexia nervosa weight loss becomes a way of life with no end.
To be classified with anorexia nervosa the DSM V (2013) states the following criteria.
- Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health.
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, or persistent behaviour that interferes with weight gain, even though at a significantly low weight.
- Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
The DSM V (2013) also classifies two subtypes something which many people will not be aware of. The first sub/type is Restrictive (this is simply starving oneself) the second Binge/Purge refers periods where suffers will “binge” on food or when they try to purge through (or a combination of) excessive exercise, laxatives, diuretics, vomiting or drugs.