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In the United States, more than 8 million people suffer from an eating disorder. Anorexia is complex, because it involves both physical and psychological symptoms. But with the right information, resources, and support, you can absolutely recover from anorexia, and learn to survive and thrive.

An anorexic individual is someone who refuses to maintain a minimal body weight within 15 percent of his or her optimal weight. You may be surprised to hear anorexia classified as a mental illness, but many of the disorder’s physical symptoms—like rapid weight loss, severe fatigue, anemia, and low blood pressure—are rooted in psychological compulsions to be thin or exert control over one’s life.

Preoccupation with weight, food, or calories, and the development of food-related rituals are very common among those with anorexia. Individuals suffering from anorexia may severely restrict food intake, ignore the body’s hunger signals, and often engage in excessive exercise. As fear of gaining weight becomes more obsessive, the symptoms of anorexia can start to include those of other eating disorders like bulimia: for instance, anorexics may engage in binge eating followed by purging induced by laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, etc.

With all these diverse symptoms and no specific physical cause, it may sound like surviving anorexia is an insurmountable challenge—but treatment programs and strategies are growing more effective every day, and there are many survivors who have made it their life’s goal to help others experience a similar recovery.

These resources provide more information about anorexia:

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