Home » Anorexia Nervosa – Information, Causes, Treatment

Anorexia Nervosa – Information, Causes, Treatment

This is anorexia or loss of appetite without any local cause in the alimentary tract.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder affecting mainly girls or women, although boys or men can also suffer from it. It usually starts in the teenage years. On account of any mental depression or a fanciful idea (especially for reducing obesity), she takes less food than normal. The appetite gradually lessens.

It is difficult to estimate how common it is but surveys suggest that up to 1 per cent of schoolgirls and female university students have anorexia nervosa. This may be an underestimate.

The disease is mainly encountered in the western world and is more common among women in certain professions, such as models and ballet dancers. Puberty, deaths in the family and other life stresses are all believed to be potential triggers of anorexia.

There may also be peer pressure to lose weight, nasty comments from others about weight that trigger dieting or an unrealistic expectation of what a normal body weight should be.

Anorexia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening illness, and should be treated as soon as possible. Sufferers should seek help, or be encouraged to do so.

The cause of anorexia nervosa is unknown. Both biological and social factors play a part. People in certain professions, such as modeling and ballet dancing, are especially at risk.

What are the characteristics of the anorexia nervosa?

There is a strong, almost overwhelming fear of putting on weight, with sufferers preoccupied with the shape or size of their bodies.

Rules are invented regarding how much food is allowed and how much exercise is needed after eating certain amounts of food.

Those suffering from anorexia pursue a very low ‘ideal’ weight.

The weight loss may cause hormonal disturbances and women with anorexia nervosa may stop having periods.

Body weight is maintained at least 15 per cent below that expected for a person’s height.

It is self-induced weight loss caused by avoiding fattening foods and may involve taking excessive exercise, using laxatives or diuretics or self-induced vomiting.

What are the causes of anorexia nervosa?

The cause of anorexia nervosa is unknown; although it is likely that both inherent biological factors and factors in the patient’s social environment play a part.

The disease is mainly encountered in the western world and is more common among women in certain professions, such as models and ballet dancers.

Puberty, deaths in the family and other life stresses are all believed to be potential triggers of anorexia.

There may also be peer pressure to lose weight, nasty comments from others about weight that trigger dieting or an unrealistic expectation of what a normal body weight should be.

What are the signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa?

Sufferers may feel bloated, even after a small meal.

They may lose interest in socializing with friends.

Other side effects include tiredness, feeling cold, constipation and stomachache.

Some patients also develop additional disorders such as bulimia.

Weight loss of at least 15 per cent below the normal ideal body weight for a person of the same age and height.

Cessation of periods or delayed development in puberty.

Self-induced weight loss. Methods can include fasting, low food intake, excessive exercise, diuretic medicines (medicines that make you urinate more) laxatives, diet pills or vomiting. Sometimes people make themselves sick to lose weight. Others take excessive exercise.

Sufferers have a constant fear of gaining weight, as well as a feeling of being fat, even when their weight is much less than that of other people of the same height.

What is severe anorexia?

People who do not receive treatment may become chronically ill or even die.

Long spells without adequate intake of food can cause osteoporosis (fragile bones) and damage to the heart, liver, kidneys and brain.

Anorexia can impede growth in the young and cause difficulties in concentration.

People with anorexia nervosa may also experience mental health problems such as depression and increased risk of suicide.

Treatment for anorexia

Treatment will vary depending on the individual circumstances. There is no one single treatment that has proven to be effective in all cases. Treatment helps to:

Restore the person to a healthy weight.

Restore healthy eating patterns.

Treat any physical complications or associated mental health problems.

Address thoughts, feelings and beliefs concerning food and body image.

Enlist family support.

In some cases, medication is necessary, especially where there is depression or serious compulsive symptoms.

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