Bild: Ein dünner Bauch mit einem Maßband 
Learning to deal with body
shape is difficult for anorexia
sufferers; © Pixelio.de

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder with a grim reputation. Even experts say that anorexia is often devastatingly chronic and carries high mortality rates. However, a study recently conducted in Finland with almost 3000 participants uncovers a different side to anorexia. Its outcome is generally good: up to 70 percent of women with anorexia recover before age 30.

In the study, 2.2 percent of Finnish young women suffered from severe anorexia nervosa. When milder forms of self-starvation and obsessive anxiety about weight and shape were included, up to 5 percent of women were affected during their lifetime. Anorexic symptoms usually started between ages 10 and 25; the peak of illness onset was between ages 15 and 19. Although Finland has an excellent taxpayer-funded healthcare system that covers everyone, only half of women with anorexia nervosa were recognized by healthcare professionals. Even fewer received any type of treatment for their symptoms.

By age 30, up to 70 percent of women with anorexia had recovered from their illness. On average, the duration of anorexia was three years. Recovery from anorexia was usually slow and gradual. First, lost weight was regained and menstruation resumed. Attitudes about body shape and weight took a much longer time to resolve. Learning to deal with body shape and weight related concerns took usually five to ten years.

Women in the acute starvation phase of anorexia were less likely to date, live in long-term relationships, and marry than their healthy co-twins and other healthy women. However, women who had recovered from anorexia nervosa were just as likely to date, have sexual relationships, marry, and have children as healthy women.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Helsinki