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Information and Statistics - Anorexia Nervosa

The term anorexia nervosa was first used in 1873 when it was noted that there was no physical cause for the condition of those affected.

The physician Dr John Reynolds referred to Anorexia Nervosa in 1669 and who described a girl who did ‘abstain from all solid food'. In 1694 Richard Moreton described a 16 year old boy that had a "total want of appetite".

Studies conducted on identical and non identical twins reveal a probability of genetic predisposition in patients developing anorexia nervosa, suggesting a link with personality. Studies of identical twins suffering from the illness reveal that in approx 50% of cases both twins suffer whereas the percentage is approximately 5% in non identical twins. Environmental influences can also play a part and there is great debate as to whether or not there is a biological cause and whether abnormally high or low amounts of certain chemicals in the bodies of those suffering with Anorexia Nervosa can be measured or deficiency in some vital nutrient e.g. magnesium or zinc or a defect in the glands responsible for regulating appetite through the secretion of hormones or delayed stomach emptying so that food stays in the stomach longer and the feeling of bloated ness is physical not psychological.

Research undertaken has suggested a specific abnormality, a reduction in blood flow to one small area of the brain, which seems not to reverse with weight gain for the most part. The part of the brain affected deals with visual image perception, regulation of appetite and feelings of fullness.

1 in 100 women aged 15-30 has Anorexia Nervosa. December 07:

Anorexia causes more deaths than any other psychiatric disorder - in adults and in under 18s.

Anorexia in particular has a very high suicide rate, more than 20x that of the normal population.


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