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Anorexia nervosa means 'loss of appetite for nervous reasons'. However, this is misleading because people with anorexia nervosa, may have a normal appetite, but drastically control their eating and do not satisfy their appetite. People with anorexia do not wish to starve themselves to death but may deny the seriousness of a very low body weight.
If you have anorexia you may have an intense fear of gaining weight and losing control of your body shape. Your focus on food may become a means of controlling life. You may feel life is just happening to you and what you eat is the one part of your life you are able to control. To exercise control over your body shape, you may use restrictive dieting and/or intense exercise programmes. You may also use laxatives and diuretics.
Although it is likely that there is some link to the modern importance on being thin, the causes of anorexia nervosa are complex and are also linked to feelings of control and self-worth.
Anorexia nervosa often starts between the ages of 15 and 25. Although 90% of people with anorexia are women, anorexia nervosa is also found in men, all ages, in all social and almost all cultural groups.
It is difficult to estimate how widespread the disease is, but surveys suggest that 1% of young girls (age 15-25) have anorexia nervosa.