Anorexia in the DSM 5

Anorexia in the DSM 5

The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that tens of millions of Americans will suffer from some type of an eating disorder over the course of their lifetimes. Eating disorders are serious illnesses that affect individuals both physically and mentally; furthermore, they do not discriminate: anyone can suffer from one regardless of their age, gender, and background. Experts have found themselves unable to pin down any singular cause behind the development of eating disorders. A growing consensus, however, suggests that a variety of genetic, biological, and sociocultural factors inform the likelihood of an individual to develop an eating disorder.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is a type of eating disorder which has a few potential characterizations:

  • Weight loss
  • Having a hard time maintaining an appropriate weight for one’s age and stature
  • Distorted body image
  • Not gaining the appropriate amount of weight as a growing child

Oftentimes, those with anorexia disorder restrict what types of food they eat and how many calories they consume. Individuals with anorexia nervosa may also binge eat, purge by inducing vomiting or using laxatives, or compulsively work out.

Anorexia in the DSM 5

In the United States, mental health professionals often consider the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM 5) as the standard in diagnosing mental disorders in their patients. The DSM 5 dictates that the following criteria has to be met in order for an individual to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa:

  • The person possesses an intense fear of weight gain even if they are underweight
  • The individual has a distorted way in which their shape or weight is experienced, deny how low their body weight is, or their weight or shape has an undue influence on their sense of self worth
  • The person restricts their intake of food such that they have a significantly low body weight for their physical health, sex, age, and/or developmental trajectory

It is important to remember that an individual does not have to meet the DSM 5’s requirements in order to have a serious eating disorder. 

Who Develops Anorexia?

You will not be able to tell whether or not an individual is suffering from anorexia just based on their appearance; they do not have to look underweight or even emaciated to be struggling with the disorder. In fact, studies have shown that individuals with larger bodies can also suffer from the disease, though they might have a lower chance of being diagnosed with it because of our culture’s prejudice against overweight individuals. Additionally, more and more people are being diagnosed with anorexia as older adults or children, though the disease often develops during one’s adolescence.

Getting the Help You Need

If you or someone you love is experiencing an eating disorder, you may want to contact an eating disorder hotline. And while eating disorders are indeed serious issues, they are also treatable. If you find yourself or a loved one in a crisis, you can text “NEDA” to 741-741 and be put in touch with a trained individual. Additionally, we can help you here at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You can reach us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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