anorexia nervosa

(redirected from Anorexic yearning)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.

eating disorders

eating disorders, in psychology, disorders in eating patterns that comprise four categories: anorexia nervosa, bulimia, rumination disorder, and pica. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation to avoid obesity. People with this disorder believe they are overweight, even when their bodies become grotesquely distorted by malnourishment. Bulimia is characterized by massive food binges followed by self-induced vomiting or use of diuretics and laxatives to avoid weight gain. Some anorexic patients combine bulimic purges with their starvation routine. These disorders generally afflict women—particularly in adolescence and young adulthood—and are much less common among men. Some researchers believe that anorexia and bulimia are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain; one study has linked bulimia to deprivation of tryptophan, an amino acid used by the body to make the neurotransmitter serotonin. Others contend that these disorders are rooted in societal ideals that value slenderness. Rumination disorder generally occurs during infancy, and involves repeated regurgitation accompanied by low body weight. Infants suffering from rumination disorder may re-ingest the regurgitated food. Pica, also found primarily among infants, is characterized by eating various non-nutritive substances like plaster, paint, or leaves. Obesity is not generally considered an eating disorder, since its causes tend to be physiological.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

anorexia nervosa

a disorder of eating behaviour. This is a psychological disturbance found predominantly in young women which leads them to perceive themselves as obese and to attempt to become slim. Their disordered eating behaviour is most usually expressed as a refusal to eat sufficiently, so that weight is lost, and in conjunction there may be episodes of bulimia, or bingeing, followed by the use of purgatives and self-induced vomiting. As weight loss continues menstruation ceases, and, though at first energy appears to increase, eventually the physical condition may become life-threatening.

There has been much interest in and research into this condition since the early 1970s. Among sociologists, anorexia is considered a ‘pathology of self-identity’, arising from the idealization of slimness (especially for women) in contemporary societies. Disordered family relationships have been suggested as a precipitating factor, the effort of the patient to return to being a child (immature figure, non-menstruating) suggesting an unwillingness to become an adult. It is also proposed that a genetic predisposition may underlie the problem. Current treatment is becoming more oriented to medical intervention to correct the biochemical imbalance, but social and psychiatric treatments are still widely used. When a patient is severely ill, needing hospitalization, the usual treatment has been behavioural, which can be effective in inducing weight gain. See BEHAVIOUR THERAPY. Psychotherapy is used to assist the patient achieve a realistic perception of her/his situation, and SELF-HELP GROUPS are found useful by many sufferers who may need longterm support. See also BODY.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000

anorexia nervosa

[‚an·ə′rek·sē·ə nər′vō·sə]
A disorder in which dramatic reduction in caloric intake consequent to excessive dieting leads to significant physiological, emotional, psychological, and behavioral disturbances.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.