Anorexia is a medical term for a loss of appetite. While the term in non-scientific publications is often used interchangeably with anorexia nervosa, many possible causes exist for a loss of appetite, some of which may be harmless, while others indicate a serious clinical condition or pose a significant risk.
Anorexia is a symptom, not a diagnosis. When a healthcare provider states that a patient has anorexia, they are simply referring to a decreased appetite. This means that the provider must find and treat the underlying cause of the anorexia. Anorexia is not to be confused with the mental health disorder anorexia nervosa. Because the terms are often used interchangeably, a provider must clarify to a patient to which they are referring as to avoid confusion. Anyone can manifest with anorexia regardless of their gender, age, or weight.
The symptom also occurs in other animals, such as cats, dogs, cattle, goats, and sheep. In these species, anorexia may be referred to as inappetence. As in humans, loss of appetite can be due to a range of diseases and conditions, as well as environmental and psychological factors.
In Chinese medicine, lack of appetite ususally signifies a stomach or spleen disharmony due to deficient qi or dampness.