Anorexia nervosa

An eating disorder in which the individual becomes obsessed with food and the amount of food they eat, anorexia nervosa isn’t necessarily a disorder regarding food, but rather is a coping mechanism. Individuals who suffer with anorexia view their weight as a direct display of their self-worth. Anorexics may starve themselves or exercise excessively to maintain a weight that is generally far below what is a healthy weight for their height and age. A way to cope with emotional problems, anorexia is very difficult to overcome as it is a disorder that affects both the body and the mind. Usually starting in the teen years, anorexia may start as dieting but soon spirals out of control. If left untreated, anorexia can result in serious health problems such as bone thinning, heart problems, kidney problems and in some cases, can be deadly.

 

Symptoms

 

Much like alcoholics and other addicts, people with anorexia will often times deny that they have a problem. When someone says they look too thin, they look in the mirror and see a fat person. This distorted self image fuels on the disease which eventually results in visible physical symptoms and emotional distress:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Individual weighs far below what is healthy
  • Obsession about food, dieting and exercise
  • Vomiting or a use of laxatives
  • Odd eating habits (cutting up food into tiny pieces, shoving food around on the plate, spitting food into napkin, chewing each bite a certain number of times)
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Belief they are overweight when they are not
  • Secretive, making excuses not to eat in front of others

 

These symptoms are all indicative of the early stages of anorexia. As the disease progresses, symptoms of starvation may start to set in:

  • Thinning of the hair
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Brittle nails
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Low blood pressure/slow heartbeat
  • Growth of a layer of fine, fuzzy hair all over the body
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Constantly feeling weak and tired
  • Purplish skin color in hands and feet due to poor circulation

 

Causes

 

Though there is no one specific cause of anorexia, there are a number of potential reasons one may develop anorexia that can be biological, social or emotional. Genetics can play a huge role in eating disorders. People who develop an eating disorder are more likely to have immediate family members who have suffered from a similar eating or mood disorder. You’re not born with the disease, but are predisposed to develop it later in life. Certain personality traits such as low self-esteem definitely contribute to eating disorders. These esteem issues are often caused by social trigger that include media pressure, peer pressure and celebrity role models who possess an unhealthy physique.

 

Diagnosis

 

There are a number of examinations doctors will use to diagnose anorexia nervosa. Physical exams include measurements such as height, weight and diameter measurements to determine if the individual is at a healthy size for their height and age. Lab tests may be used to determine the amount of certain minerals and proteins in the blood and psychological evaluations are used to assess feelings and thoughts to assess the self-image the individual has.

 

Treatment

 

Depending on the level of anorexia nervosa the person has developed, there are a number of treatments that can be effective. If the person has reached the stage of starvation, hospitalization may be necessary in order to ensure they get the proper nutrients they need for recovery. The first goal of treatment is to restore the patient to a healthy weight. Medical care allows professionals to monitor diet, vital signs as well as psychological development. There are a number of psychotherapies the individual can undergo to begin to develop a healthy self image such as individual, family and group therapy.