Anorexia is a serious psychiatric illness marked by an inability to maintain a normal body weight, which usually means dropping below 85 percent of the ideal body weight. Those affected by anorexia, who happen to still be growing, fail to make the expected increases in weight and bone density, therefore leading to other serious medical conditions. Despite increasing weight loss, individuals with anorexia, continue to obsess about weight, remain dissatisfied with the perceived size of their bodies, and engage in an array of unhealthy behaviors to enable weight loss (i.e. purging, compulsive dieting, excessive exercise, and fasting). Individuals with anorexia place central importance on their shape and weight as a marker of self-worth and self-esteem, although they are never fulfilled due to the fact that they never believe they are thin enough. Typical personality features of individuals with anorexia include perfectionism, obsession, anxiety, harm avoidance, and low self-esteem. The most common co-morbid psychiatric conditions include major depression and anxiety disorders.
Melissa Sestito is a marriage and family therapy graduate student at Fairfield University.