Anorexia Nervosa

What is Anorexia?

An eating disorder defined by a loss of appetite or a complete aversion to food. Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental illness. It's a syndrome that extends far beyond binge eating. The individual with anorexia, who is usually a girl or young woman, begins dieting in order to lose weight. Weight loss becomes a show of mastery and control over time. Concerns about control and anxiety about one's physique are regarded to come second to the desire to lose weight. The person goes on a never-ending cycle of restrictive eating, often to the point of famine. This develops into an obsession, akin to drug addiction. Anorexia is a life-threatening condition.


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Stages of Anorexia

The DSM-5 uses the body mass index (BMI) as a measure of the severity of anorexia nervosa. According to the DSM-5, they are:

  • BMI more than 17 is considered mild.

  • BMI of 16–16.99 is considered moderate.

  • BMI of 15–15.99 is considered severe.

  • BMI of less than 15 is considered extreme.


Types of Anorexia Nervosa

Different Types of Anorexia: AN is divided into two types.

  1. Binge-Eating/Purging Type: the person uses binge eating or purging as a weight-loss strategy. In terms of the individual's weight, it differs from bulimia nervosa. A person with binge-eating/purging anorexia can maintain a healthy or average weight, but they are usually considerably underweight. Bulimia nervosa patients, on the other hand, can be overweight.

  2. Restrictive Type: the person loses weight by reducing food intake, fasting, diet pills, or exercise; they may exercise excessively to maintain or avoid weight gain, and some people eat only enough to stay alive. There are no recurrent episodes of binge-eating or purging in the restrictive type.


Causes of Anorexia Nervosa

Although the specific aetiology of anorexia is unknown, research suggests that it may be caused by a mixture of personality traits, emotions, and thinking habits, as well as biochemical and environmental variables.

When other aspects of their lives are stressful or overwhelming, people with anorexia typically turn to food and eating to gain a sense of control. Inadequacy, low self-esteem, worry, anger, or loneliness may all play a role in the disorder's development. Furthermore, people with eating disorders may have strained relationships or have been taunted about their size or weight in the past. Peer pressure and a society that equates thinness and physical attractiveness with attractiveness can also contribute to anorexia's development.

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.


Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia

Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms: The signs of anorexia often include the following-

Rapid weight loss over several weeks or months; Continuing to diet/limited eating even when thin or when weight is very low; Having an unusual interest in food, calories, nutrition, or cooking; Intense fear of gaining weight; Strange eating habits or routines, such as eating in secret; Feeling fat, even if underweight; Inability to realistically assess one's own body weight; Striving for perfection and being very self-critical; Undue influence of body weight or shape on self-esteem; Depression, anxiety, or irritability; Infrequent or irregular, or even missed menstrual periods in females; Laxative, diuretic, or diet pill use; Frequent illness; Wearing loose clothing to hide weight loss etc. Low tolerance for cold temperatures, brittle hair and nails, dry or yellowish skin, anaemia, constipation, swollen joints, tooth decay, and new growth of thin hair all over the body are some of the physical symptoms that emerge over time.


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Effects of Anorexia: Anorexia nervosa, if left untreated, can lead to:

  • Damaged organs, especially the heart, brain, and kidneys

  • Drop-in blood pressure, pulse, and breathing rates

  • Loss of hair

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Thinning of bones (osteoporosis)

  • Fluid-electrolyte imbalance

  • Death from starvation or suicide


How is Anorexia Diagnosed?

It can be difficult to recognise anorexia. The disorder is characterised by secrecy, shame, and denial. As a result, the disease may be unnoticed for a long time.

If symptoms are present, the doctor will begin by taking a comprehensive medical history and completing a physical examination. Although there are no specific laboratory tests to diagnose anorexia, the doctor may use a variety of diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, to rule out physical illness as the reason for the weight loss and to assess the impact of the weight loss on the body's organs.

If no physical sickness is discovered, the patient may be sent to a psychiatrist or psychologist, both of whom are trained to diagnose and treat mental diseases. To examine a person for an eating disorder, psychiatrists and psychologists may utilise specifically prepared interview and diagnostic methods.


Anorexia Nervosa Treatment

Anorexia Treatment: Anorexia emergency treatment may be required in extreme cases where dehydration, starvation, kidney failure, or an irregular heartbeat constitute a life-threatening threat.

Treatment for anorexia is difficult, whether it is an emergency or not because most persons with the illness deny they have a problem — or are so afraid of getting overweight that they may resist efforts to help them gain weight. Anorexia, like all eating disorders, necessitates a thorough treatment approach that is tailored to the individual needs of each patient.

Treatment aims to get the person back to a healthy weight, address emotional concerns including poor self-esteem, correct faulty thinking habits, and help them develop long term behavioural changes.

Treatment usually consists of a mix of the following methods:

  1. Psychotherapy: This is a type of individual psychotherapy that focuses on improving a person's eating disordered thinking (cognitive therapy) and behaviour (behavioural therapy). Practical tactics for building healthy attitudes toward food and weight, as well as tactics for modifying how the person reacts to tough situations, are included in treatment.

  2. Medication: Certain antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be used to treat anxiety and depression caused by an eating disorder. Some antidepressants may also aid in sleep and appetite stimulation. Other sorts of drugs may be prescribed to aid with anxiety and/or disordered eating and body image attitudes.

  3. Nutrition Counselling: This strategy aims to instil a healthy attitude about food and weight, aid in the restoration of regular eating patterns, and emphasise the importance of nutrition and a well-balanced diet.

  4. Group and/or Family Therapy: The importance of family support in the therapy process cannot be overstated. It is critical that family members understand and recognise the signs and symptoms of an eating issue. People with eating disorders may benefit from group therapy, in which they can find support and openly express their feelings and worries with others who have similar difficulties and experiences.

  5. Hospitalization: As previously stated, hospitalisation may be required to manage extreme weight loss that has resulted in malnutrition as well as other major mental or physical health issues, such as heart disease, severe depression, or the risk of suicide. The patient may need to be fed by a feeding tube or an IV in some situations.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Who is More Likely to Suffer From Anorexia?

Ans. Girls and women are more likely than boys and men to suffer from anorexia. Anorexia is also more common in young women and girls than in older women. Girls acquire anorexia on average when they are 16 or 17 years old. The most vulnerable are teen girls aged 13 to 19 and young women in their early twenties.

2. Is Dry Mouth a Sign of Anorexia?

Ans. Bone loss, dry mouth, low blood pressure, and baldness are all possible side effects. Missed or halted periods are common among female patients. Anorexia nervosa can cause all of the other symptoms associated with starvation.

3. Can Anorexia Lead to Loss of Teeth?

Ans. Bulimia's harsh stomach acid wears away tooth enamel, increasing the risk of tooth decay; anorexia's effects, particularly the lack of nutrients consumed, can weaken the jaw bone, weakening teeth and leading to tooth loss; and anorexia's effects, particularly the lack of nutrients consumed, can weaken the jaw bone, weakening teeth and leading to tooth loss.