Anorexia is a persistent lack of appetite and it generally has psychoneurotic causes, as in anorexia nervosa which mainly strikes young women.
This kind of anorexia leads to an extreme body emaciation caused by emotional or psychological aversion to eating. The illness usually stars with dieting to lose excess weight, but then the dieting turns into a refusal to take food. Food is no longer a satisfaction but an enemy, and refusing it becomes the only way to show will-power.
The causes of anorexia nervosa are poorly understood. The illness may be the unconscious reaction to physical growth and express the desire to remain a child: a refusal by adolescent girls to accept changes in their body size and shape. In some cases families are responsible for the illness since they often underrate the idea of dieting and do not consider anorexia a serious problem.
Sometimes girls try to imitate supermodels and associate food rejection with beauty. However, anorexics’ bodies are far from being perfect and attractive: they have sallow faces and hollow cheeks, their skin is worn because of a hormonal imbalance, they are so thin that their bones can be clearly seen through their skin.
The treatment of anorexia is generally long and difficult. It must begin with restoring nutrition: the patient needs to understand why she is starving herself and must be helped to recognise her worth. In some cases the patient refuses treatment and the result in a small number of cases is death.