Anorexia nervosa, often known as anorexia, is a life-threatening eating disorder characterized by increased weight loss and self-starvation. Anorexia Nervosa patients have unusually low body weight, a strong fear of gaining weight, and a skewed view of their weight.
Eating disorders impact at least 9% of the global population, with anorexia affecting 1% to 2% of the population. It affects about 0.3 percent of teenagers.
Anorexia nervosa patients consume a very low-calorie diet and are terrified of gaining weight. When individuals lose weight, they generally feel better about themselves.
Anorexia, like other eating disorders, has the potential to take over your life and be extremely difficult to overcome. However, with treatment, you can regain a better understanding of who you are, return to healthier eating habits, and reverse some of the terrible consequences of anorexia.
Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
Inability to maintain a normal weight, exhaustion, insomnia, skin that is yellow or blotchy and covered in soft, fine hairs, hair thinning or falling out, constipation, more than three cycles without a period, dry skin, and low blood pressure are all signs of anorexia nervosa.
You may also notice the following behaviors:
Excessive exercise, moving food around the plate instead of eating it, or cutting food into small pieces, anger, withdrawal from social activities, low mood, hunger denial, and the use of diuretics, laxatives, or diet pills are all factors that might contribute to weight gain.
Causes of Anorexia Nervosa
Although the specific etiology of anorexia is unknown, research suggests that it may be caused by a combination of personality traits, emotions, and thinking habits, as well as biochemical and environmental variables. Peer pressure and a society that associates thinness and physical attractiveness with beauty can all contribute to the development of anorexia. Physical causes of eating problems are also possible. Changes in hormones that regulate mood, hunger, thinking, and memory in the body and mind could lead to eating disorders. Because anorexia nervosa tends to run in families, it’s possible that vulnerability to the condition is partly inherited.
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Risk factors of Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia is caused by a number of reasons, including:
- Genetics. Changes in specific genes may increase the risk of anorexia in some people. Those who have a first-degree relative with anorexia — a parent, sibling, or child are at a significantly higher risk.
- Starvation and dieting. Dieting has been linked to the development of eating disorders. Many of the symptoms of anorexia are simply indicators of malnutrition, according to studies. Starvation has an effect on the brain, causing mood swings, inflexible thinking, anxiety, and a decrease in appetite. Invulnerable individuals, starvation, and weight loss may alter the way the brain works, perpetuating restrictive eating practices and making it difficult to return to regular eating habits.
- Transitions. Change can cause emotional stress and increase the risk of anorexia, whether it’s a new school, house, or job; a relationship split; or a loved one’s death or illness.
Complications of Anorexia Nervosa
Anemia, heart problems such as mitral valve prolapse, abnormal heart rhythms, or heart failure, bone loss (osteoporosis), which increases the risk of fractures, loss of muscle, in females, the absence of a period, in males, decreased testosterone, gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, bloating, or nausea, electrolyte abnormalities such as low blood potassium, sodium, and chloride, and kidney problems are all common complications of anorexia. Every organ in the body, including the brain, heart, and kidneys, can be affected if a person with anorexia becomes extremely malnourished. Even when anorexia is under control, this damage may not be totally reversible.
Anorexia sufferers frequently suffer from other mental health conditions in addition to physical complications. They may include the following:
- Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders
- Personality problems
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD)
- Misuse of alcohol and other drugs
- Self-harm, suicidal ideation, or attempted suicide
Prevention of Anorexia Nervosa
There is no proven prevention for anorexia nervosa. However, being aware of the disorder’s symptoms can aid in the rapid diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. If you or a loved one is obsessed with weight, exercising excessively, or unsatisfied with their appearance, you should get professional help.
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Diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa
The criteria for anorexia nervosa listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association can be used to diagnose a person with anorexia. The DSM-5 includes three criteria for anorexia nervosa:
- Calorie restriction results in weight loss or failure to gain weight, resulting in very low body weight for that person’s age, sex, height, and growth stage.
- A strong fear of gaining weight or becoming “fat.”
- Having a skewed perception of themselves and their situation. In other words, the person is unable to accurately judge their body weight and shape believes that their look has a significant impact on their self-worth, and ignores the medical significance of their current low body weight and/or dietary restriction.
Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa
The main goal of treatment is to get your body back to a healthy weight and eating habits. A dietician can assist you in learning proper eating techniques. It’s also possible that your family will be encouraged to participate in therapy with you. Anorexia nervosa is a lifelong struggle for many people.
To overcome anorexia nervosa, you and your family must put in a lot of effort. Individual, family, and group therapy are frequently used as part of the treatment process.
- Individual Counseling
Anorexia nervosa is frequently treated using a type of therapy known as cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT aids in the transformation of negative thoughts and behaviors. Its purpose is to assist you in learning to manage powerful emotions and developing a healthy sense of self-esteem.
- Counseling for Families
Family therapy enlists the help of family members to help you maintain a balanced diet and lifestyle. In addition, family therapy aids in the resolution of family issues. It can help create support for the family member learning to cope with anorexia nervosa. It can assist a family member to manage with anorexia nervosa by providing support.
- Group Counselling
People with anorexia nervosa can interact with others who suffer from the same illness through group treatment. However, being the thinnest can occasionally lead to competition. It is critical that you attend group therapy led by a certified medical expert in order to avoid this.
While no drug has been proved to cure anorexia nervosa, antidepressants may be used to address the anxiety and despair that anorexia patients experience. These may assist you in feeling better. Antidepressants, on the other hand, have no effect on the desire to reduce weight.
Your primary care provider may decide to keep you in the hospital for a few days to treat the effects of your anorexia nervosa, depending on the severity of your weight loss. If your weight is too low or you’re dehydrated, you may be given a feeding tube and intravenous fluids. 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.