Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa: Help, Support and Overcome

Anorexia Nervosa Overview

People diagnosed with anorexia nervosa find it difficult to maintain the minimum body weight considered healthy for their age and height. They are in constant fear that they may gain weight while the fact is that they are underweight. This results in extreme dieting bordering on starvation, excessive exercising and employment of other methods such as restrictive eating and overuse of diet pills, laxatives, and enemas by the patients to reduce their body weight.


More common in females than males in the same age group, this deadly eating disorder appears during teenage years or young adulthood. White women with high economic status, who are high academic achievers, are more affected by this disorder. Naturally enough, athletes, actors, models and dancers are more at risk for anorexia nervosa because being overweight is not desirable for them. It has also been found that the disorder strikes Caucasians more than people of other ethnic backgrounds.


Also known as anorexia in popular parlance, anorexia nervosa is a serious psychological condition that can be life threatening. Researchers believe that 10% of people suffering from this disease die because of it. Some of the complications of anorexia include death, heart problems, bone loss and kidney problems. In most cases, the patients recover. However, a word of caution: the disorder is more likely to recur in patients who have once suffered from this disease.

Help and Support for Anorexia Nervosa

The exact cause of anorexia is still being investigated and experts are still to reach an agreement. There are probably many factors that are responsible for its occurrence. According to medical authorities, genes and hormones may play a role in determining a person’s susceptibility to develop anorexia. There are studies that suggest that a dysfunction in one part of the brain is responsible to the development of the disorder. There is possibility that social attitudes promoting thinness may play their part in its development. Family conflicts and high demands from parents are no longer thought to put a person at risk for developing this disorder.


Anorexia nervosa can affect you both physically and psychologically, and can lead to depression, fatigue, social withdrawal, anxiety disorders, an abnormally slow heart rate (bradycardia), unusually low blood pressure (hypotension) etc. When doctors suspect someone meets the criteria for anorexia diagnosis, they typically conduct an array of tests and exams including albumin, bone density test to check for thin bones (osteoporosis), CBC, ECG, electrolytes as well as kidney, liver and thyroid function tests to eliminate other possible causes of the patient’s symptoms.


While there’s no sure way to prevent anorexia or other eating disorders, there may be ways to help. Some lifestyle guidelines recommended by primary care physicians may help prevent the development of more serious illness.

Overcome Anorexia Nervosa

Since most patients of anorexia don’t accept the fact that they have an illness, it is a challenge for the doctor to persuade them that they are indeed suffering from an eating disorder. There are several types of treatments that are used to cure anorexia. If your condition is serious you may be hospitalized.


Time taken for treatment and recovery depends on the severity of the disease. In most cases, anorexia is a lifelong disease. The signs and symptoms may subside for a time but the patient remains susceptible to relapse during stressful periods. It is advisable that a patient of anorexia should go for different therapies including cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy and family therapy.


Though no medication has proven to treat anorexia, some drugs like antidepressants, olanzapine and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) provide relief from the mental disorder symptoms that accompany anorexia. The side effects of the above mentioned medications are minor, especially when we take the serious dangers of anorexia into account. Olanzapine has fewer side effects, the most frequent being sedation. Patients taking SSRIs may develop some mild initiation side effects including insomnia, nausea, headache, rashes, fatigue and joint and muscle pain. In some cases, antidepressants have the potential of causing suicidal tendencies in the patient.

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