According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the three essential diagnostic features of anorexia nervosa are as follows:
- Restriction of food intake leading to significantly low body weight: Individuals with anorexia nervosa have an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, which leads to a persistent restriction of food intake. This restriction results in a significantly low body weight compared to what is considered normal for their age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health.
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat: Individuals with anorexia nervosa experience an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even when they are significantly underweight. This fear is often disproportionate to their actual body size and weight. The fear of weight gain drives their restrictive eating behaviors.
- Disturbance in the way one’s body weight or shape is experienced: People with anorexia nervosa have a distorted body image and a disturbance in the way they perceive their own body weight or shape. They may overestimate their body size and believe they are larger than they actually are. Their self-evaluation and self-worth are excessively influenced by their body weight or shape.
To receive a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, an individual must meet these three essential diagnostic features as defined by the DSM-5. It’s important to note that only qualified healthcare professionals can make an accurate diagnosis based on a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s symptoms, behaviors, and medical history.