Usually the condition occurs during early adolescence to young adulthood, although it may strike later. Some 90 percent of sufferers are female; about 1 percent of American women are afflicted. Anorexia is dangerous, and professional help should be sought early. Prompt treatment will usually keep the condition from progressing, but some cases are very resistant to treatment and may require hospitalization. Some anorexics die from complications.
Anorexia is believed to be primarily an illness of the mind or illness of psychological origin; however, it has significant medical and physical consequences. Often it begins with a relatively normal desire to lose a few pounds. But because dieting only temporarily relieves underlying psychological problems, it soon becomes compulsive; food intake is gradually minimized until eating is almost eliminated. The victim becomes obsessed with his or her body image and frequently sees themself as fat even though the opposite is true. Ironically, the anorexic ritualizes food preparation and consumption. He or she becomes fascinated with recipes and cooking yet will not eat the food themself, especially in the presence of others. Sometimes fasting is interspersed with periodic binging and purging, ( Bulimia), particularly when trying to regain normal eating habits. About half of all anorexics become bulimic at some point. There is a strong association between eating disorders and depression.