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Anorexia Nervosa - Symptoms and Treatment

Jan 26, 2008
Anorexia nervosa is a type of eating disorder. Individuals who suffer from anorexia are so afraid of putting on weight that they drastically cut back on the amount of food they eat and risk becoming dangerously thin.

Anorexia affects not only the body but also the mind. What starts off as simple dieting can soon get out of hand as the individual gets obsessed about losing weight and is consumed with thoughts of food, dieting and weight gain or weight loss. Individuals suffering from anorexia typically have distorted body images and no matter how emaciated they may look, they still see themselves as way too fat. If timely treatment is not given, anorexia can become a lifelong problem and can lead to other health problems including kidney damage, osteoporosis and heart failure.

Causes of anorexia

Anorexia most commonly starts off during the teenage years. Though there is no conclusive proof as to what causes it, risk factors are a combination of family history, personality traits and social factors. Individuals are more prone to suffering from anorexia if other family members are obese or have an eating disorder. Other factors that can bring on this condition is the need to be perfect all of the time, engaging in sports such as ballet and gymnastics that focus on body size or the occurrence of sudden stressful life events such as divorce or death of a loved one.

Symptoms of Anorexia

Denying that they have any problem and seeing themselves as grossly obese despite being dangerously under-weight are characteristic traits of anyone suffering from anorexia nervosa. They refuse any attempts of help and adamantly refuse to eat lest they put on any weight. They are obsessed with thoughts of dieting and weight gain and will exercise even when they are very ill. Very often persons suffering from anorexia will resort to inducing vomiting or using laxatives in a misguided attempt to avoid weight gain.

Sooner or later, they began to develop other signs associated with starvation including feeling tired, weak and faint; feeling cold all the time; slow heartbeat and low blood pressure; brittle nails and thinning hair and light purplish color skin on arms and legs because of poor blood flow. Sometimes there could also be a swelling in the hands and feet.

Treatment of Anorexia

Treatment is a must and is most effective when started early. Because it is as much an emotional disorder as a physical one, treatment would include working in tandem with a doctor, a counselor and a dietician. There are no medications available for treating anorexia but antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to overcome depression and anxiety and to prevent anorexia from recurring. Hospitalization is sometimes called for if the individual's weight has dropped too low.
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