Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by low body weight and body image dissatisfaction. Individuals with anorexia nervosa often have an intense fear of weight gain and may restrict their food or exercise compulsively.
According to the DSM-5, the following criteria are required for a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa.
- Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health.
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
- Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
However, it is important to recognise that even if an individual does not meet all of these criteria, and regardless of weight, a serious eating disorder that requires treatment can still be present. This is often referred to as ‘atypical anorexia nervosa’. However, this term can be unhelpful, as research has found that the level of distress felt by individuals, the medical impacts and importance of seeking treatment are similar in atypical anorexia.