What is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia Nervosa is a psychiatric mental condition and associated with eating disorders. This eating disorder is potentially life-threatening because person with anorexia nervosa have devastating fear of weight gain. In this conditions person keep abnormally low body weight and merely focus on controlling their weight and body shape. Anorexia people always restricting the quantity of food they intake, making themselves vomit and engage themselves in excessively exercising and work outs. Their mental state develops the anxiety and tension about their body weight and shape that emerged from a fear of being over weight and fat or have extreme desire to be thin. People have distorted vision of themselves, thinking that they are fat but in real they are not. They generally control calorie intakes by induce vomiting right after eating or during eating or misusing laxatives,diuretics, diet aids or enema. Similar to “Bulimia Nervosa” some people uses purge and binge techniques. Although anorexia patients struggle hard to keep and maintain abnormally low weight while bulimic people are normal to above normal body weight. They are usually very unwell and need help and have not any lifestyle choices but they often deny to have a serious problem.
Main attributes to the onset of Anorexia are restrictive dieting and immoderate workouts. People mainly choose the dieting behaviour to achieve a culturally constructed skinny ideal. Anorexia nervosa like bulimia nervosa can be very hard to overcome. But effective and timely treatment, helps you to gain a visible sense of who you are, return to healthier lifestyle or eating habits, regain health and self-confidence and reverse the anorexia’s serious self-destructive patterns and complications appropriately.
Anorexia is a complicated mental state in which you lose the ability to see yourself as you truly are. This eating disorder affects male and female of all ages without discrimination. Mostly girls and women of middle and upper socioeconomic classes affects largely because they have intense urge of dieting to become thin. But in recent years it is more common in young boys around the age of 16 to 24 and men over 40. While children and adolescents with anorexia nervosa disorder are at high risk for slowing down their physical and mental growth and development.
If summarizing the anorexia nervosa three key factors are associated with this complex eating disorder are;
- refusal to withhold and keep healthy body weight and shape
- extreme fear of gaining weight
- disfigure the body image
Anorexia Nervosa is categorized in to two sub types and both are very major mental illnesses that require timely treatment.
Restricting Subtype: People with anorexia will intensely restrict their intake calories, sometimes only taking few 100 calories or taking just water. They tries to control over quantity and type of food to maintain less weight. This restrictive behaviour is not only circulate around food items but also accompanied with excessive exercise. People in this behaviour restrict themselves in
- Certain food items or groups i.e fats and carbohydrates
- Skipping main meal
- Count down the calories
- Rigid thinking and obsessive rules
Binge Eating/Purging Subtype: starving and fasting is not a solution, so many people engage in binge eating i.e lose their control while eating , they eat and eat, but when they realized that they should not have eaten too much, they may start vomit or exercise. Purging behaviour involves self-induced vomiting or misusing laxatives deliberately, diuretics or enema to compensate for eating food. This type of eating disorder is very dangerous for health.
Anorexia Nervosa Causes:
Surprisingly the exact cause of anorexia nervosa disorder is still unknown. But like many other eating disorders it is a complex mental condition and also combination of biological, emotional or psychological and environmental factors.
- Biological: Genes plays a significant role in these disorders, although it is not yet clear which genes are involved. Genetic changes that make many individuals more vulnerable to developing this disorder. While some people have many genetics traits like sensitivity,perfectionism and perseverance, they all associated with anorexia nervosa.
- Psychological and Emotional: Emotional aspects may widely contributes towards anorexia nervosa. Those women who have obsessive-compulsive personality traits have easily strict towards crash diet plan and even forgo food despite being hunger. In this manner they are in state of high levels of tension and anxiety.
- Environmental: Our social and environmental factors contributes a lot towards anorexia nervosa disorder. Because social media, TV shows and fashion magazines are only emphasis that success and worth is only associated with people who are thin and skinny. These environmental pressure may induce extreme desire in people particularly young girls to be thin and smart whether at the cost of their health.
Symptoms and signs of anorexia nervosa
Symptoms of anorexia nervosa is divided into two category;
- Physical symptoms
- Emotional and behavior symptoms
- Weakness, dizziness and fainting
- Feeling exhausted or fatigue
- Dramatic loss in weight
- Denial of hunger
- Throwing up right after eating
- Inadequate food intake
- Skinny or thin appearance
- Low blood count i.e anemia
- Irregular heart beat
- Extreme constipation
- Hair loss
- Muscle loss
- Low blood sugar level
- elevated liver function
- Rigid and immoderate exercise
- Absence of monthly cycle in female
- Low blood pressure
- Low self-esteem
Emotional and behavior symptoms
Behavioral symptoms of anorexia nervosa may include
- Restricting food intake normally through fasting and severe dieting associated with extreme workouts.
- BIngeing and self-induced vomiting use of laxatives, herbal products and enemas.
Other emotional and behavioral symptoms may include;
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Depression and anxiety
- Reduce sex desire
- Preoccupation with food, fats and calories
- Lack of emotions
- Refuse to eat all the time
- Suicide thoughts
- Social cut down
- Withdrawal with friends
Certain factors multiply the risk of anorexia nervosa, including;
- Gender. It is more common in young girls of age 15 to 24 and women after 35. But now a days boys and men are also largely affected with is disorder only due to social pressure.
- Age. Teenagers are more likely affected with anorexia. Although people of any age may face pressure and develop this disorder.
- Genetics. Genes play its role and with the changes of certain genes may make individuals more susceptible to anorexia disorder.
- Family history. If any of your first-degree relative like children, sibling or parents had previously suffering from this disorder have much higher risk of this eating disorder.
- Weight changes. When some one lose or gain weight intentionally or even unintentionally people give their comments on their weight either positive if you lose weight or negative in case of weight gain. These comments trigger someone to start starving, fasting or even crash dieting to lose weight and maintain body shape.
- Transitions. Any emotional stress and strain like new work place, home and school, death of family member,relationship breakup or illness of children and any loved one increase the anorexia risks.
- Sports, work and artistic activities.Actors, dancers, young models and even athletes are at high risk of anorexia nervosa. Because social pressures, parents and even coaches motivate them to lose weight and become smart.
- Social media. The social media, such as fashion magazines, ramp cat walk, TV shows and Fashion shows portraits that popularity and success is only due to being skinny and smart. They exaggerate the fame of those actors and models who are diet conscious and are extra under weight. In this way people urge a drive to become thin at any cost.
Major risk factors for anorexia nervosa
- Difficulty in expressing thoughts and feeling
- Rigid and strict dieting behaviour
- Low self-esteem
- Body dissatisfaction
- Eating disorders family history
- History of sexual and physical abuse
- Stressful family relationships
When to see a doctor
initially many people are not focused that they need professional assistance or help. Anorexia nervosa like other eating disorders are serious mental health condition but many people don’t want any treatment. Their sole desire is to remain thin and skinny overrides concerns about health. If you, any of your family member or loved one is worried about this situation call to doctor and talk or seek advice.
Red flags to watch for
If you noticed that some one in your loved one have anorexia signs and symptoms and he/she is not wanted to seek any professional advice. Don’t force them only create a motivational ground and discuss their issues and help them out properly. You watch in your family or friends if some one is facing anorexia nervosa disorders and have certain signs than consult to a doctor. This may include;
- Missing and skipping main meal
- Lame excuses for not eating
- Only focus on low calories foods
- Severe dieting behavior
- Anti social behavior
- Cooking different food items for other but reluctant to eat
- Repeated weighing
- Drying skin and hair
- Concerned about appearance or looks
- Complaining of being fat but not in real
- Having rigid eating rituals like spitting food after chewing
Anorexia nervosa disorder may seriously causes numerous complications which may lead to life threatening complications. Some times it can be very fatal and death occur suddenly. Some possible complications may include;
- An imbalance of electrolytes — minerals such as potassium, calcium and sodium that maintain the balance of fluids in body.
- Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).
- Kidney problems.
- Absence of periods in young girls.
- Ovulation issues.
- PCOS (polycsytic ovarian syndrome) in females.
- Low testosterone in males.
- Gastrointestinal issues such as bloating and nausea.
- Heart problems like heart failure or cardiac arrest.
- Mood disorders.
- Muscle loss.
- Reduction of bone density.
- Dry skin and hair.
- Infertility in females.
In anorexia nervosa people are become seriously malnourished, in this way every body organ start to stop functioning and can be damage including heart, kidney and even brain. These damages are not reversible even when treatment starts and situation is under control.
Furthermore, along with these physical complications people also come across with psychological and mental complications as well. Some are;
- Misuse of drugs and alcohol
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Personality disorders
- Anxiety, tension and mood disorders
How anorexia affects the body?
Research reveals that anorexia nervosa is one of the most common and serious mental health condition and has one of the highest death rates of any psychiatric health condition. When body not get enough fuel in form of calories and nutrients than its functions are disturbed and behave abnormally like
- Mood swings
- Lack of energy
- Poor memory
- Headaches or body aches
- Brittle nails
- Yellowish and dry skin
- Tooth decay
- Gum damage
- Bloating and constipation
- Hormonal imbalance
- Growth of facial hairs
Tests and Diagnosis
If your health care provider or doctor suspects that you are suffering from anorexia nervosa disorder, he/she will conduct the examination and further test which are helpful in diagnoses. These test and exams generally include;
1.Physical examination. This may include the body weight and height, checking BMI, heart rate, muscles and bone weight, blood pressure and body temperature. Identify skin and nails problems and also examination of abdomen.
2.Lab tests. These may include;
- Blood test (CBC)
- Check Electrolytes
- Thyroid test
- Test to examine liver and kidney functioning
- Urine test
3.Psychological evaluation. This is very helpful and necessary, because mental health provider ask about your feelings, thoughts and also eating habits. In this way complete self-assessment may be done.
4.Other studies. To check the bone density X-rays may be taken. By electrocardiogram check out the heart irregularities.
Health care provider also suggest some additional test in order to diagnose the real issue, and rule out the medical causes for apparent weight changes and related issues.
Treatments and drugs
When some one diagnoses the anorexia disorder then he/she under goes several types of treatment. Eating disorder has to be multidisciplinary and considered each patient individually according to their medical case.
Mainly two approaches to treatment are considered effective are psychotherapy and drugs. Effectiveness of psychotherapy with antidepressants overcomes the eating behaviour disorders and helps to control the anorexia nervosa. In anorexia nervosa treatment usually done using team approach, that why following people are generally involves;
- Patient’s family or friends
- Health care provider/doctor
- Mental health provider
- Experienced dietitian
Here’s are some anorexia treatment options and considerations. Have a look;
Psychotherapy, is widely known as psychological counseling and talk therapy, it involves discussion about related issues and major concerns of anorexia with mental health provider. Facts prove that these sorts of psychotherapy widely helps to control and improve anorexia symptoms;
- Family based therapy. In this therapy family, friends and close relatives are involved. It mobilizes the parents to motivate their child with re-feeding and also weight restoration. Because children with anorexia is unable to make proper choices about their eating and health. This therapy gives effective results if family is devotedly involved in children issues.
- Interpersonal therapy. This therapy is basically solve the difficulties in close relationships and help your self to communicate your problems and issues to them without any hesitation. This therapy helps to improve problem solving skills and also social communication.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. The main goal of this therapy to supportive talk to anorexia patient about their feelings and thought. Cognitive behavioural therapy is widely used throughout the world for many problems. It is very effective treatment because it helps to change the distorted thoughts and beliefs and leads towards healthy and positive thoughts.
There are no specific medications are legally approved for anorexia because none has been found effective and work well. Only antidepressants and other psychiatric medicines can help to treat mental disorders like tension, depression and anxiety.
As anorexia is life threatening illness which leads your life in immediate danger and need proper and quick treatment, then hospital emergency room is only place to save your life with maximum possible treatments.
- The first and foremost thing is to resolve the main issues which are very dangerous for your health like dehydration,psychiatric issues, electrolyte imbalances or heart rhythm disturbance.
- Staff focus towards severe malnutrition of patient which leads to deadly situation. Specialized eating disorder programs are probably intensive treatment over long period of time.
Restoring a healthy weight
The main goal of all treatment is to regain or restore healthy lifestyle by getting back healthy weight. Because in order to recover from eating disorder restoring appropriate weight and healthy nutrients are very essential. Experienced dietitian guide you about proper diet plan to follow and maintain normal eating habits.
In spite of the fact that there is no sure way to prevent this disorder, but with the help of healthier behavior, positive attitude and professional treatment the situation may be controlled well before worsens. Multidisciplinary approaches should be used in order to prevent anorexia nervosa disorder. Here how you can help;
- Encourage the development and strengthen the support in your children towards healthy body image, no matter what their shape or size are.
- Pediatrician talk and advise worth a lot. Because he/she is in good position to point out very early indicators of an eating disorders. They even help to prevent its further development.
- Noticed if in your family, friends and anyone in your surrounding have food issues which may lead to eating disorder, supportive talking about their issue, and also provide the possible ground of help.
- If you see some one in your first degree relative have severe dieting habits and even not satisfied with appearance and looks, consider confidential talking to him/her about their issues and motivate towards healthier behaviour or treatment options.
- Since the school and grooming institute could educate children about proper food and nutrition. They are also responsible to promote healthy communication, self-esteem, social skills and positive attitude among themselves.
- Professional experts emphasis upon the significance of social prevention and also collaboration designers, television presenters, models, advertisers, famous athletes and among other professions to circulate the messages that are released to the world population that influence weight loss and its consequential complications in responsible way.
- Furthermore, it is recommended that no excessive protection of the parents upon their children, it will facilitate the adolescent’s autonomy which leads to solve many problems and make their own decisions.
Anorexia Nervosa Vs Bulimia Nervosa