Is Anorexia Nervosa?
Many people worry about gaining too much weight. But in some
people the worry becomes obsessive, resulting in a condition called anorexia
nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that can result in severe
weight loss. A person with anorexia is preoccupied with calorie intake and
People with anorexia nervosa eat an extremely low calorie diet
and have an excessive fear of gaining weight. They often feel better about
themselves when they lose weight. They may also exercise excessively. Anorexia
is most commonly diagnosed in adolescent women, but it’s been diagnosed in older
and younger women and in men.
the Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
Those with anorexia nervosa lose weight and maintain their
extremely low weight in different ways. While some put severe restrictions on
their calorie intake, others exercise excessively. Some employ a binge and
purge method similar to that used by those with bulimia. Others use
laxatives, vomiting, or diuretics to rid themselves of calories. If you have
anorexia nervosa, your symptoms may include:
You may also notice behaviors such as:
- excessive exercise
- pushing food around the plate instead of eating
it, or cutting food into small pieces
- withdrawal from social activities
- depressed mood
- hunger denial
- use of diuretics, laxatives, or
Causes Anorexia Nervosa?
The exact cause of anorexia nervosa isn’t known. People who
develop anorexia may have a negative body image. They may be focused on being “perfect.”
They may be looking for ways to control their lives. Other factors like
biology, environment, and psychology are believed to play a role.
Genetics and hormones might have an effect on the development of
anorexia nervosa. Some evidence suggests a link between anorexia and serotonin,
a chemical produced in the brain.
Pressure from society to look thin may also contribute to the
development of anorexia nervosa. Unrealistic body images from media outlets
like magazines and television can greatly influence young people and spark the
desire to be thin.
Someone with obsessive-compulsive
disorder (OCD) might be more predisposed to maintaining the strict diet and
exercise regimen that those with anorexia nervosa often maintain. That’s because
people with OCD are prone to obsessions and compulsions.
Is Anorexia Nervosa Diagnosed?
Your primary care provider will perform a physical exam to check
your blood pressure and heart rate. They will also do a psychological exam or refer
you to a mental health professional who will ask about your eating habits and
feelings. They will look for any criteria that show:
- you are restricting food intake
- you have fear of gaining weight
- you have problems with body image
Your primary care provider may also order certain laboratory
tests. Blood tests may be ordered to check your electrolyte levels and liver
and kidney function. In addition, your primary care provider may check your
bone density and look for heart irregularities.
Your primary care provider may also order other laboratory tests to
rule out other possible causes for weight loss, such as celiac disease
Treatment Is Available for Anorexia Nervosa?
One of the biggest obstacles in the treatment of anorexia nervosa
is realizing that you need help. Many with anorexia nervosa don’t believe they
have a problem. That can make treatment difficult.
The main goal of treatment is to restore your body to a normal
weight and establish normal eating habits. A dietitian will help you learn how
to eat properly. It might also be recommended that your family take part in
therapy with you. For many people, anorexia nervosa is a lifelong challenge.
You and your family must work hard to overcome anorexia nervosa. Individual,
family, and group therapies are often an integral part of treatment.
A form of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy is often
used to treat anorexia nervosa. CBT helps change unhealthy thoughts and
behaviors. Its goal is to help you learn to cope with strong emotions and build
Family therapy gets family members involved in keeping you on
track with your healthy eating and lifestyle. Family therapy also helps resolve
conflicts within the family. It can help create support for the family member learning
to cope with anorexia nervosa.
Group therapy allows people with anorexia nervosa to interact
with others who have the same disorder. But it can sometimes lead to
competition to be the thinnest. To avoid that, it’s important that you attend
group therapy that is led by a qualified medical professional.
While there is no medication at this time that is proven to treat
anorexia nervosa, antidepressants may be prescribed to deal with the anxiety
and depression common in those with anorexia. These may make you feel better.
But antidepressants do not diminish the desire to lose weight.
Depending on the severity of your weight loss, your primary care
provider may want to keep you in the hospital for a few days to treat the
effects of your anorexia nervosa. You may be put on a feeding tube and
intravenous fluids if your weight is too low or if you’re dehydrated. If you
continue to refuse to eat or exhibit psychiatric issues, your primary care
provider may have you admitted into the hospital for intensive treatment.
Is The Long-Term Outlook?
Many people recover from anorexia. But a small percentage of
people don’t. In some the condition can be deadly. Still others may go on to
develop other eating disorders. For some people, overcoming anorexia takes
lifelong treatment and maintenance. Joining a support group for anorexia can
help increase your likelihood of recovery.
Anorexia Nervosa Be Prevented?
There is no proven method to prevent anorexia nervosa. But looking
out for symptoms of the disorder can help with quick diagnosis, treatment, and
recovery. If you find yourself or a loved one obsessing about weight,
excessively exercising, or being dissatisfied with their appearance, you may
want to seek professional help.