In our society the more common problem is overweight people so we are bombarded with advice and information on dieting that helps AN goes undetected usually for far too long. By the time AN gets to the point of clinical diagnoses according to DSM IV criteria (which includes 15% below normal weight), not only dieting/not eating has become a habit, physical damage may be permanent and there is a 20% death rate in sufferers.
In general headlines in the news about AN are generally limited to tragic accounts that do not describe the complete picture of AN. Sensational stories only highlight the most advanced stage of the condition that our society cannot comprehend: why can’t they just eat? Each account further masks how innocent and harmless the beginnings to AN can be. My daughter’s sudden loss of ‘baby fat’ and strict diet are hard to relate to the pictures I last see in the newspapers – it is almost impossible to detect any similarity between those stories to what a family would observe at the onset of AN.
From my experience as a mother and from reading many experts and AN accounts, AN is different to dieting in three distinctive ways: