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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa

People who suffer from anorexia usually prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight. This is usually accomplished by setting a restriction on the amount of food they consume. They usually control their calorie intake by vomiting after eating or by misusing laxatives, diet aids, diuretics or enemas. They may also try to lose weight by exercising excessively.

About

Anorexia doesn’t really focus on food. It's an unhealthy way to try to cope with emotional problems. When you have anorexia, you often equate thinness with self-worth.

Symptoms

Physical symptoms:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Thin appearance
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Bluish discoloration of the fingers
  • Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
  • Soft, downy hair covering the body
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Constipation
  • Dry or yellowish skin
  • Intolerance of cold
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Osteoporosis
  • Swelling of arms or legs

Emotional and behavioral symptoms:

Behavioral:

  • Severely restricting food intake through dieting or fasting and usually includes excessive exercise
  • Bingeing and self-induced vomiting to get rid of the food and may include use of laxatives, enemas, diet aids or herbal products

Emotional:

  • Preoccupation with food
  • Refusal to eat
  • Denial of hunger
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Lying about how much food has been eaten
  • Lack of emotion
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability
  • Reduced interest in sex
  • Depressed mood
  • Thoughts of suicide

Causes

The exact cause of anorexia nervosa is unknown. As with many diseases, a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors play a role in the development of anorexia.

  • Biological. It's not yet clear which genes are involved; there may be genetic changes that make some people more vulnerable to developing anorexia. Some people may have a genetic tendency toward perfectionism, sensitivity and perseverance which all of the mentioned traits are found to be associated with anorexia.
  • Psychological. Emotional characteristics can contribute to anorexia. Young women may have obsessive-compulsive personality traits that make it easier to stick to strict diets and forgo food despite being hungry. They may have an extreme strive for perfectionism; this causes them to think they're never thin enough. Having high levels of anxiety is a result from not feeling or seeing the desired thinness, which usually causes a restriction on eating habits.
  • Environmental. Modern Western culture emphasizes thinness. Success and worth are often equated with being thin. Peer pressure may help fuel the desire to be thin, particularly among young girls.

Treatment

Hospitalization and other programs:

If your life is in immediate danger, you need treatment in a hospital emergency room for issues such as a heart rhythm disturbance, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances or psychiatric problems. Hospitalization may be required for medical complications, psychiatric emergencies, severe malnutrition or continued refusal to eat. Hospitalization may be on a medical or psychiatric ward. Some clinics that specialize in treating eating disorder programs might offer more intensive treatment over longer periods of time.

Medical care

Because of the complications anorexia causes, you might need frequent monitoring of vital signs, hydration level and electrolytes, as well as related physical conditions. In severe cases, people with anorexia may initially require feeding through a tube that's placed in their nose and goes to the stomach. Seeing a primary care doctor is suggested, and in the event you need further care they will be the one who coordinates care with the other health care professionals involved.

Restoring a healthy weight

The first goal of treatment is getting back to a healthy weight. You can't recover from an eating disorder without restoring an appropriate weight and learning proper nutrition.

A psychologist or other mental health professional can work with you to develop behavioral strategies to help you return to a healthy weight. A dietitian offers guidance in getting back to regular patterns of eating; including providing specific meal plans and calorie requirements that help you meet your weight goals. Your family will also likely be involved in helping you maintain normal eating habits.