Although Anorexia Nervosa mostly affects female population aged 15 - 30, girls under 15 and women above 30 can suffer from this disorder as well. Thus, the oldest patient reported was a woman of 68 without any prior history of eating disorders (Dally, 1984). Anorexia affects certain share of male population: estimated 10 to 15 percent of people with anorexia are men. The highest occurrence of anorexia among males is reported in the age group of young adolescents from 7 to 14 years: nearly 25 percent of anorexia cases in this age group are boys (Herman-Giddens et al, 1997).
Experts identify two types of Anorexia Nervosa: food restricting type, and binge eating (purging). The most common characteristic of the restricting type is substantial reduction in calories intake (normally to 300 to 700 kcal per day) and intensive physical over-exercising. By contrast, in the binging type intake of calories may be either small or as high as several thousand followed by purging - self-induced or pharmacologically conditioned vomiting (Yager & Andersen, 2005: 1481). Health complications resulting from either type of this eating disorder affect practically all biological systems of human organism.
Anorexia Nervosa poses a number of threats in terms of mental and physiological health. Similarly to other eating disorders Anorexia Nervosa frequently co-occur with depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders (APAWGED, 2000). Physiologically Anorexia Nervosa causes a wide range of health complications some of which - cardiovascular conditions and kidney failure - are life threatening. However, despite the awareness of the risks associated with anorexia, it is on the rise these days, and a number of laymen and experts even believe that anorexia has already become a norm in modern society. A brief inquiry into the etiology of this eating disorder reveals the reasons for such seemingly strange point of view.
The cause of Anorexia Nervosa isn't fully understood at present. Possible causes of this eating disorder are: destructive influence of family and society, genetic (inherited) factors, brain dysfunction, neurotransmitter levels imbalances, etc. Yet, none of these factors has been proved to be the key determinant of developing Anorexia as well as no specific life experiences are linked to onset of this eating disorder. Several recent twin studies suggest that Anorexia Nervosa is more than other eating disorders associated with a genetic predisposition (Paris, 1999).
Many recent studies associate the risk of developing Anorexia Nervosa with media influence. Evidences and arguments provided by these studies deserve particular attention: media influence may be one of the central factors in extremely high incidence of Anorexia Nervosa among female adolescents.
Absolute majority of anorexia nervosa incidents occur in female population: according to estimations of American Psychiatric Association