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Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, and an obsessive fear of gaining weight due to a distorted self image which may be maintained by various cognitive biases that alter how the affected individual evaluates and thinks about their body, food and eating. AN is a serious mental illness with morbidity and mortality rates as high as those seen in any psychiatric illness.
While the stereotype is that AN affects young white women, it can affect men and women of all ages, races, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
The term anorexia nervosa was established in 1873 by Sir William Gull, one of Queen Victoria's personal physicians. The term is of Greek origin: a (α, prefix of negation), n (ν, link between two vowels) and orexis (ορεξις, appetite), thus meaning a lack of desire to eat.
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