Almost everyone is afraid of getting too big. But in some people, this anxiety becomes obsessive and leads to an affection called nerve anorexia. This is a eating disorder that can result in considerable weight loss. An anorexic person cares obsessively about her weight and the food she consumes.
She may be exercising too much. It may follow a very low-calorie diet. People affected by anorexia nervosa have an excessive fear of getting fat. They often have a better opinion of themselves when they lose weight. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, anorexia is most commonly diagnosed in adolescent girls, but it has also been diagnosed in children as young as seven years and in adults until age of 80 years.
The exact cause of anorexia nervosa is unknown. People who suffer from anorexia may have a negative perception of their body. They can strive to always be perfect. They can look for ways to control their lives. Other factors appear to play a role:
Genetics and hormones can have an effect on the development of nerve anorexia. Some evidence suggests a link between anorexia and serotonin, a chemical made in the brain.
The pressure exerted by a society that values slimness can also contribute to the development of anorexia nervosa. Images in magazines and on television can influence young girls a lot and make them want to be slim.
A person with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) may be more likely to follow the strict diet and exercise program often followed by anorexics. People with OCD do their best to achieve perfection and may feel they will never reach it.
Anorexic people lose weight and maintain a very low weight in different ways. Some impose very strict restrictions on their calorie intake, others exercise too much. Some use a method of hyperphagia and purge, similar to that used by bulimic people. Others use laxatives, vomiting or diuretics to eliminate the food they have ingested. If you suffer from nerve anorexia, you probably have some of the following symptoms:
- refusal to maintain normal weight
- yellowish or mottled skin and covered with fine and soft hair
- hair thinning and hair loss
- absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles
- dry skin
You may also have noticed the following behaviors:
- you are exercising too much
- you push the food on your plate instead of eating it, or you cut it into small pieces
- avoidance of social activities
- depressed mood
- denial of hunger
- use of diuretics, laxatives or appetite suppressants
The doctor will have to eliminate other possible causes of weight loss, such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
A medical examination will take your blood pressure and your heart rate. Blood tests can be performed to check your electrolyte levels and kidney function. A psychological examination can be conducted to ask questions about your eating habits and feelings about food. In addition, the doctor can check your bone density and the absence of cardiac irregularities.
One of the most important obstacles to treating anorexia nervosa is the misconception that you do not need help. Many anorexics do not think they have a problem. This can make treatment difficult.
The primary goal of the treatment is to restore normal weight and normal eating habits. A dietitian will help you learn how to eat right. It may also be recommended that your family participate in therapy with you. For most anorexics, their pathology is a lifelong challenge.
Anorexic people and their families must make great efforts to overcome anorexia nervosa. Group, family and individual therapies are often an integral part of treatment.
A form of treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to treat anorexia nervosa. CBT helps to change unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Its goal is to help cope with strong emotions and develop healthy self-esteem.
This form of treatment requires the participation of your family members to help you follow a healthy diet and lifestyle. Family therapy also helps to resolve family conflicts. It can help support the person who suffers from anorexia.
This treatment allows anorexic people to interact with each other. But it can sometimes lead to a competition to see who will be the leanest. To avoid this, it is important that the group is led by a qualified medical professional.
Although there are currently no drugs capable of treating anorexia nervosa, antidepressants can be prescribed to manage the anxiety and depression that often accompany anorexia. It is possible that these medications can help you feel better. But antidepressants do not reduce the urge to lose weight.
Depending on the severity of your weight loss, the doctor may keep you in hospital for a few days to treat the effects of your anorexia. You may be fed a feeding tube and receive intravenous fluids if your weight is too low and you are dehydrated. If you continue to refuse to eat or have psychiatric problems, the doctor may have you hospitalized for intensive treatment.
Many cure anorexia. But a small percentage can not. Some die from this pathology. Others may develop various eating disorders. Some, to overcome anorexia, must receive treatment and care throughout their lives. It may be helpful to join a support group for anorexics.
There is no proven method of preventing anorexia. But by being vigilant and recognizing the signs of this pathology, it is possible to arrive at a rapid diagnosis, treatment and healing. If you or a loved one starts becoming obsessed with your weight, too much exercise or being dissatisfied with your appearance, it is recommended that you consult a professional.