General Illness Information
Medical Term: None Specified
Description: An eating disorder in young previously healthy women, who develop a paralyzing fear of becoming fat, and have a distorted body image. The patient refuses to eat adequately, and continues to want to lose weight even after a reasonable weight loss. Primarily affects teenage and young adult females. Occasionally young males are affected. There is also an absence of menstrual periods.
Causes: Cause of Anorexia Nervosa is unknown. Suggested causes include family and internal conflicts (sexual conflicts). Patient develops a phobia about putting on weight, and is highly paranoid on changes in fashion (as slimness is identified with beauty). Patient suffers symptoms of depression or personality disorder.
- Confront personal problems realistically.
- Try to correct or cope with problems with the help of counselors, therapists, family and friends.
- Patient must develop a rational attitude about weight.
Signs & Symptoms
- Weight loss to 15% lower than ideal body weight.
- High energy levels despite body wasting.
- Intense fear of obesity.
- Hungry and preoccupied with food but refusing to eat for fear of gaining weight.
- They study diets and calories and tend to collect recipes and prepare elaborate meals for others.
- Constipation and abdominal pain often associated with the overuse of laxatives.
- 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.
- Cessation of menstrual periods.
- Onset prior to age 25.
- No known medical illness to account for loss.
- No other known psychiatric disorder.
- Peer pressure to be thin.
- History of slight overweight.
- Perfectionist, compulsive or overachieving personalities.
- Psychological stress.
- Ballet dancer, models, cheerleaders, and athletes.
- Inadequate interpersonal relationships.
Diagnosis & Treatment
- The goal of treatment is for the patient to establish healthy eating patterns so as to regain normal weight.
- The patient can accomplish this with behavior-modification training supervised by qualified professionals.
- The appropriate treatment approach addresses underlying issues of control and self-perception.
- Treatment can usually be done on an outpatient basis.
- Psychotherapy or counseling for the patient and family.
- Hospitalization during crises for intravenous or tube feeding to correct electrolyte imbalance, or if patient is suicidal.
- Therapy may continue over several years.
- Relapses are common, especially when stressful situations occur.
Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed.
Increased activity as weight is gained back.
- A controlled re-feeding program will be established.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements may be prescribed.
- Chronic anorexia nervosa caused by patient’s resistance to treatment.
- Electrolyte disturbances or irregular heartbeat.
- These may be lift-threatening.
Treatable if the patient recognizes the emotional disturbance, wants 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.