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Anorexia Nervosa

By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

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Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia Nervosa

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa represents an eating disorder which is often characterized by an irrational fear related to weight-gain and a series of auto-imposed food restrictions. On a general level, it involves large amounts of weight loss and appears more in females than males. Even though outside scientific literature “anorexia” and “anorexia nervosa” are two terms that are utilized interchangeably, “anorexia” is only a medical term that describes the lack of appetite, even though individuals who suffer from this disorder do not experience appetite loss, but oblige their bodies to survive without food or with small amounts of food because any type of additional weight is viewed as too much.


It is believed that people who suffer from anorexia have been previously fat and ridiculed because of it or are hypersensitive and hold the weight of the world onto their shoulders, thus making some issues which are not that important for regular folks as of high impacts in their lives.

The disease is often linked to a psychological pattern and people who have it lack control in almost all aspects of their lives. Due to the insecurities and fears caused by the lack of control, they generally believe that by starving themselves or appealing to excessive exercising or other ways of getting the small amounts of eaten aliments away from their bodies, will offer them the idea of control, thus helping them with decision making or gaining solutions to some of their daily problems. Unfortunately, this disorder is most of the time destructive and because some people aren’t even aware of its presence in a way in which would determine them to change something, it sometimes leads to the death of the patient.

The disorder may also be triggered by a trauma or an experience in which the person had no control which later leads to low self-esteem and the desire to regain the power. In our times, one of the common reasons behind the development of this condition is the media and the way they present perfection through models that are too skinny to be considered healthy.

Signs & Symptoms

This disorder usually has the onset during adolescence and is more commonly found in women than men. People who possess this disorder have a very low body weight, obsession with possessing a thin figure, fear of weight gain, and inappropriate habits linked to eating. Furthermore, they may use laxatives, exaggerate with the daily exercises, and even vomit the low quantities of food they have consumed.

Because of this, those who suffer from this serious condition will experience harmful effects on the majority of their organs and may develop cardiovascular problems. When a person is consulted by a doctor in order to be aware of the presence of anorexia, electrolyte abnormalities and kidney problems are among the first to be checked. However, there are some symptoms that can be noticed at a psychological level and are usually related to the self-image due to the fact that individuals with anorexia possess a bad picture of themselves and even though not all the times believe to be fat, there is a big difference between the image of themselves in their heads and reality.

Other symptoms include amenorrhea, cutting rituals of the food before its consumption, presence of diet pills inside the house, solitude, depression, swollen joints, hair thinning or loss, fatigue, bad breath, and rapid mood swings.

The contributory factors of anorexia nervosa are various and usually related to either psychological or biological variable. Even though the connection between personality pathology and development of serious eating conditions is sometimes inconclusive and doesn’t apply to specific individuals, it appears that when it does apply it is directly linked to the type of eating disorder. For instance, Bulik and Mazzeo describe that when a child is overemphasized because of the shape and weight, he seeks the media perpetuation of ideality, thus there are high chances for him to develop this eating disorder.

On the other hand, as compared to the eight percent which describe the general possibility for people to develop anorexia nervosa at some point in their lives, those who possess an obsessive-compulsive personality raise their risks to twenty-two percent, as some scientific studies presented.

Diagnosing Anorexia Nervosa

People who suffer from anorexia nervosa can be easily diagnosed because they are underweight, have a predisposition to hair loss, look usually tired and are frequently interested in the amounts of food and calories they consume. However, other signs such as heart or kidney problems may be noticed after some testing in a medical facility. Those who are diagnosed with this disease should immediately take action in order to avoid serious complications which sometimes lead to death. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is not as much a physical issue as it is a psychological one, and a person suffering from anorexia may be spotted through a casual conversation if the signs are present.

Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

If a person who suffers from anorexia has gotten to a stage in which they suffer from heart rhythm disturbances, electrolyte imbalances, psychiatric problems, or dehydration, help should be immediately offered in the hospital emergency room. Even if the disorder hasn’t evolved until those stages, it is important to carefully monitor the vital signs of the people throughout the entire treatment.

There are some cases in which individuals require receiving the daily required nutrients through tubes which are placed in the nose and led the liquid directly in their stomachs. The whole idea of the treatment for anorexia nervosa is helping the person restore a proper weight. In order to achieve this, they will need a dietitian capable of providing guidance and creating a meal plan that includes the proper amounts of calories needed on a daily basis. For the total success of the treatment, people should also go through both individual and family therapy because it is mandatory to positively modify their perception about themselves while being assured by the those who are the closest that the image which is new in their heads is the one that should stick.