Anorexia Patients Overestimate Their Own Sizes in Study

Frenkel said it's difficult to alter a patient's body image, so she teaches patients coping mechanisms, which help with recovery. Over time, patients can regain a healthier body image.

The disorder can last six months or a lifetime, Bulik said, adding that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of a psychiatric disorder. A quarter of all patients relapse or have chronic anorexia, she said.

Although some professionals suggest that eating disorders may stem from serotonin problems in the brain, there is no "gold standard" of care known to produce a cure, Frenkel said. Part of that is because research on eating disorders is still in its early stages.

Although 10 million people suffer from anorexia nervosa, only $7 million has gone toward research, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. That's compared with 4.5 million people who have Alzheimer's disease and 2.2 million people who have schizophrenia, which get $412 million and $249 million toward research, respectively.

Dr. Shari Barnett, a resident in Internal Medicine at Temple University who works with the ABC News Medical Unit, contributed research to this article.

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