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Anorexia Nervosa

May 04, 2012  by: Sarika  Points: 12   Category: Health  Earning $1.60   Views: 732

Anorexia nervosa is a serious psychological disorder leading to excessive weight loss due to improper eating habits.


Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a serious psychological eating disorder characterized by excessive loss in body weight which in extreme cases can lead to death. People suffering from this disease have an irrational fear of gaining weight and are indulged in self-starvation.


Anorexia nervosa literally means “neurotic loss of appetite”. However this term is misleading as people suffering from this disorder do not lose their appetite but they simply deprive themselves of food also called Self-imposed starvation. These people have high levels of Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, in their blood which shows that body is desperately trying to get nourishment but these calls are ignored or suppressed. This disease is characterized by very low body weight, inappropriate eating habits and an obsession to maintain a thin figure. Persons suffering from this disorder often consider themselves fat even if their body weight is below normal for their age and sex. This disease usually develops during adolescence and adulthood and is more prevalent in females than in males. People of all age groups and origin regardless of race can develop this disease. The frequency of occurrence is higher in industrialized and developed nations and in middle and upper socio-economic groups.


The exact cause of Anorexia nervosa could not be established but scientist and medical experts believe that a complex interplay of many physical, environmental, genetic, social and psychological factors leads to the development of this eating disorder. For example:

1. A cultural and professional environment which requires having thin and lean bodies (e.g. modeling, sports, requirement of women to be slim to look beautiful).

2. An obsession of watching your weight and a fear of getting fat, even when one is underweight for his or her age, just to remain lean and have an ideal figure.

3. Having a negative self-image and low self-esteem.

4. Inability to express oneself and the feeling of being ignored.

5. Severe emotional stress or trauma during or before puberty (e.g. death of a loved one or sexual abuse).

6. Depression, anxiety, Substance addiction (alcohol, drugs) and obsessive compulsive disorder are some of the many factors that can lead to Anorexia.

7. A tendency towards Perfectionism. The wish to be perfect all the time and being appreciated because of the believe that it is important to be perfect to be loved.

8. Having eating problems during childhood and a family history of Anorexia. The chances of having Anorexia are higher if people have a relative with eating disorders.

9. Aggressive and abusive encounters in or out of family and major changes in life (e.g. change in residence or school, divorce etc.). Inability to cope with stress is another reason for the development of this disease.

10. Nervous and psychological problems along with hormonal and chemical imbalance e.g. electrolyte imbalance. People suffering with this disease have high levels of cortisol (hormone released in response to stress) and vasopressin while having low levels of serotonin and nor-epinephrine (neurotransmitters).


The signature feature of anorexia is excessive weight loss due to denial to eat. People suffering from this disease starve themselves willingly or indulge themselves in binging and purging i.e. they vomit after eating or use laxatives to remove the food from the system. They always complain of being overweight even though the body weight is abnormally and dangerously low. A number of other physical and psychological symptoms are associated with this disorder. Some of them are:

1. Excessive weight loss and refusal to maintain a proper normal body weight.

2. Amenorrhea (absence of three consecutive menstrual cycles).

3. Lanugo (growth of soft fine hair on the face and body).

4. Obsession with calories and fat content of food and continuous fear of gaining weight.

5. Distorted self-perception and refusal to acknowledge the disease and ever-lasting believe that they are overweight.

6. Rigorous exercising and dieting, even though there is no need, to maintain the shape and get rid of fat.

7. Preoccupied with food and drinks. For e.g. extensive cooking for others but do not eat, cut the food into small pieces and eat only a little bit, make excuses for not eating, avoid eating in public etc.

8. Thin hairs, dry skin, brittle nails and bloated stomach.

9. Purging and bad breath.

10. Swollen joints and osteoporosis.

11. Low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms and fatigue.


It is difficult to diagnose this eating disorder because the patients often deny their condition and believe that they are in full control of their problem and do not need medical attention. It is not until the patient has lost considerable body weight or developed medical complications that the disease is brought to the attention of a medical doctor. The professional also lack insight into the problem because of the unreliability of the information provided by the patient. In such conditions if the health professional suspects anorexia then they use a special questionnaire developed in Great Britain called “SCOFF” to establish the disease.

• S: Do you feel sick because you feel full?
• C: Do you lose control over how much you eat?
• O: Have you lost more than 13 pounds recently?
• F: Do you believe that you are fat when others say that you are thin?
• F: Does food and thoughts of food dominate your life?

If any two of these questions are answered “yes” by a person then it is considered that he/she is suffering from an eating disorder. Apart from this SCOFF test health professionals perform a number of other biological laboratory tests to establish the assigned medical symptoms and to know the extent of damage that has been done to the body system. For example blood test, electrocardiogram, bone density test, electroencephalogram, kidney and liver function test, thyroid function tests and many others. Medical and psychological history of the patient is also taken into consideration. Depending upon the severity of the disease the patient can be immediately hospitalized or can be treated at home.


The best way to treat anorexia is to use a combination of psychotherapy, family therapy and medication. During the treatment the three main challenges to be faced are.

1. To restore the body weight

2. To treat the psychological disorder related to the disease.

3. To eliminate the believe that originally started the eating disorder.

This is a challenging task but luckily the complications are reversible and a complete recovery is possible once the body weight is back to normal. There are no medications approved to treat the disorder but antidepressants along with cognitive behavioral therapy are mainly prescribed by the health professionals. It is very important for the patients to actively participate in the treatment program and follow the prescription. The emotional and psychological support provided by family and friends play a very big role in the treatment of this disease and the rehabilitation of the patient in the society.

Author: Joina        
Posted Date: 05/06/2012    Points:5    

Very nice and valuable article. Here you have given detailed information of this diseases. Mental disorder is the reason for this diseases. So psychological treatment is the first way for treating this disease. If he/she can get cure from mental disorders, they can gradually escape from this disease. Anorexia usually starts in the teen years. It's much more common in females than males. Early treatment can be very effective. But if not treated early, anorexia can become a lifelong problem. Untreated anorexia can lead to starvation and serious health problems, such as bone thinning (osteoporosis), kidney damage, and heart problems. Many people are dying because of these problems.

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