Anorexia Nervosa

A psychological eating disorder in which a person refuses to eat adequately in spite of hunger and loses enough weight to become emaciated. The person eats very little, and refuses to stop dieting after a reasonable weight loss. The body perception is distorted; person sees self as “fat” when she or he is at normal or emaciated. Anorexia nervosa primarily affects teenage and young adult females and occasionally young men.

FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

  • Weight loss of at least 25% of body weight physical illness.
  • High energy level despite body wasting.
  • Intense fear of obesity.
  • Depression.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Constipation.
  • Cold intolerance.
  • Refusal to maintain a minimum standard weight for age and height.
  • Distorted body image. The person continues to feel fat even when emaciated.

CAUSES

Unknown. Suggested causes include family and internal conflicts (sexual conflicts); phobia about putting on weight; changes in fashion in USA (being slim is identified with beauty); a symptom of depression or personality disorder.

RISK INCREASES WITH

  • Peer pressure to be thin.
  • History of slight overweight.
  • Perfectionist, compulsive or overachieving personalities.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Stress due to multiple responsibilities, tight schedules.
  • Ballet dancers, models, cheerleaders and athletes.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES

  • Confront personal problems realistically. Try to correct or cope with problems, such as stress, with the help of counselors, therapists, family and friends.
  • Develop rational attitude about weight.

EXPECTED OUTCOME

  • Treatable if the patient recognizes the emotional disturbances, wants to help and cooperates in treatment.
  • Without treatment, this can cause permanent disability and death. Persons with anorexia nervosa have a high rate of attempted suicide due to low self-esteem.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS

  • Chronic anorexia nervosa caused by patient’s resistance to treatment.
  • Electrolyte disturbances or irregular heartbeat. These may be life-threatening.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Suicide.