Anorexia nervosa, commonly abbreviated as AN, is one of the eating disorders similar to bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Eating disorders are serious and sometimes fatal illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors. Obsessions with food, body weight, and shape may also signal an eating disorder.
Why are people with anorexia nervosa obsessed with their weight?
People with anorexia nervosa may see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves repeatedly, severely restrict the amount of food they eat, and eat very small quantities of only certain foods.
Is anorexia nervosa serious?
Yes. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder.
What are the different types of anorexia?
There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa: a restrictive subtype and binge-purge subtype.
Restrictive: People with the restrictive subtype of anorexia nervosa place severe restrictions on the amount and type of food they consume.
Binge-Purge: People with the binge-purge subtype of anorexia nervosa also place severe restrictions on the amount and type of food they consume. In addition, they may have binge eating and purging behaviors (such as vomiting, use of laxatives and diuretics, etc.).
What causes the mortality related to anorexia nervosa?
While many young women and men with this disorder die from complications associated with starvation, others die of suicide. In women, suicide is much more common in those with anorexia than with most other mental disorders.
What are the symptoms of anorexia nervosa?
- Extremely restricted eating
- Extreme thinness (emaciation)
- A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Distorted body image, a self-esteem that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape, or a denial of the seriousness of low body weight
Other symptoms may develop over time, including:
- Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
- Mild anemia and muscle wasting and weakness
- Brittle hair and nails
- Dry and yellowish skin
- Growth of fine hair all over the body (lanugo)
- Severe constipation
- Low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse
- Damage to the structure and function of the heart
- Brain damage
- Multiorgan failure
- Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
- Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
How do you diagnose anorexia nervosa?
Exams and Tests
Tests should be done to help find the cause of weight loss, or see what damage the weight loss has caused. Many of these tests will be repeated over time to monitor the person.
These tests may include:
- Some of the tests include CBC
- Liver and kidney function tests
- Thyroid function studies
- Bone density
How is anorexia nervosa treated?
It is important to seek treatment early for eating disorders. People with eating disorders are at higher risk for suicide and medical complications. Some people with eating disorders may also have other mental disorders (such as depression or anxiety) or problems with substance use.
Treatment plans for eating disorders include psychotherapy, medical care and monitoring, nutritional counseling, medications, or a combination of these approaches. Typical treatment goals include restoring adequate nutrition, bringing weight to a healthy level, reducing excessive exercise, and stopping binge-purge and binge-eating behaviors. Complete recovery is possible.
Specific forms of psychotherapy (or “talk therapy”) and cognitive behavioral approaches can be effective for treating specific eating disorders.
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