Identifying Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms

By: Juliet Cohen

Anorexia nervosa is eating disorder characterized by low body weight and body image distortion with an obsessive fear of gaining weight. Anorexia nervosa is a serious, often chronic, and life-threatening eating disorder defined by a refusal to maintain minimal body weight within 15 percent of an individual's normal weight. Persons with this disorder may have an intense fear of weight gain and a distorted body image. Inadequate eating or excessive exercising results in severe weight loss. Other essential features of this disorder include an intense fear of gaining weight, a distorted body image, and amenorrhea. In fact, people with anorexia nervosa ignore hunger and thus control their desire to eat. This desire is frequently sublimated through cooking for others or hiding food that they will not eat in their personal space. Anorexia nervosa usually occurs in adolescence or young adulthood. It is more common in females. People with anorexia nervosa usually lose weight by reducing their total food intake and exercising excessively. Anorexia is also linked to reduced blood flow in the temporal lobes, although since this finding does not correlate with current weight, it is possible that it is a risk trait rather than an effect of starvation.

Anorexia nervosa often starts between the ages of 15 and 25, but it can develop in children as young as 10 and in older people. Anorexia nervosa" is frequently shortened to "anorexia" in both the popular media and scientific literature. Many persons with this disorder restrict their intake to fewer than 1,000 calories per day. Most avoid fattening, high-calorie foods and eliminate meats. The diet of persons with anorexia nervosa may consist almost completely of low-calorie vegetables like lettuce and carrots, or popcorn. Persons with anorexia nervosa develop strange eating habits such as cutting their food into tiny pieces, refusing to eat in front of others, or fixing elaborate meals for others that they themselves don't eat. Food and weight become obsessions as people with this disorder constantly think about their next encounter with food. Dieting. People who lose weight by dieting are often reinforced by positive comments from others and from their changing appearance. Symptoms may include is weight loss of 15% or greater below the expected weight , inappropriate use of laxatives, enemas, or diuretics (water pills) in an effort to lose weight.

Anorexia nervosa is the result of a complex interplay between biological, psychological, and social factors, which tend to affect women more than men, and adolescents more than older women. More than 90% of cases occur in females. However, it should be emphasized that males represent approximately 10% of anorexia nervosa cases, a fact that often is overlooked. Anorexia nervosa is primarily a phenomenon of puberty and early adulthood. Eighty-five percent of patients have onset of the disorder between the ages of 13 and 18 years. Drug treatments, such as SSRI or other antidepressant medication, have not been found to be generally effective for either treating anorexia. Nutritional therapy. A dietitian offers guidance on following a healthy diet. A dietitian can provide specific meal plans and calorie requirements to help meet weight goals. Group therapy is often advised so people can share their experiences with others. Family therapy is important particularly if the individual is living at home and is a young adolescent. Supportive care by health care providers, structured behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and anti-depressant drug therapy are some of the methods that are used for treatment.

Anorexia Nervosa Treatment Tips

1. Nutritional therapy. A dietitian offers guidance on following a healthy diet.

2. Group therapy is often advised so people can share their experiences with others.

3. Family therapy is important particularly if the individual is living at home and is a young adolescent.

4. Medications-antidepressants or other psychiatric medications can help treat accompanying mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety.

5. Nutritional therapy-A dietitian offers guidance on following a healthy diet.

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