What is anorexia?

Anorexia is a psychological condition characterized by the desire to maintain the lowest possible body weight. It is a mental health disorder associated with low body weight, fear of weight gain, control over diet and exercise. People with anorexia place great importance on controlling their weight and physical condition, to the point of interfering with daily life.

Anorexia affects girls and women more frequently, although recently it is also becoming more common among boys and men. This condition increases the risk of mortality in those who suffer from it, due to the complications associated with the condition of suicide, intake of laxatives and diet aids, and vomiting after consuming food. Some people eat compulsively and then expel what is consumed (vomiting), in the same way as those suffering from bulimia nervosa.

Prognosis of the disease

The prognosis of anorexia depends on the speed with which the pathology was diagnosed and on the patient’s real will to cure. Thanks to the assistance of the psychologist, however, it is possible to completely resolve the disease successfully. The time will vary from case to case.

Symptoms of anorexia

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa are not simply associated with weight loss, as the disorder is psychological, meaning that the symptoms that manifest themselves are also emotional and behavioral.

Physical signs of the condition include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Brittle, dry hair that falls out or breaks easily
  • Yellow skin
  • Lack of menstrual periods
  • Dry skin dizziness
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Difficulty passing stool (constipation)
  • Abnormal blood count
  • Poor tolerance to cold
  • Blue discoloration of the fingers

Associated behavioral and emotional symptoms include:

  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Use of laxatives, enemas or diuretics
  • Periods of binge eating
  • Refusal to eat
  • Unwillingness to eat in public
  • Preoccupation with or lack of interest in food
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression or moodiness
  • Lack of interest in socializing
  • Skipping meals

Medical tests for anorexia

Anorexia is first diagnosed by checking the body mass index, followed by checking the skin, hair, and the health of the kidneys and heart. In addition, nutrient intake status will be checked.

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What are the causes of anorexia?

The cause of anorexia is currently unknown and is likely to be a combination of several factors, including biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Genetics may play a role in the development of anorexia, as it is more likely to develop in people who have a positive family history of the same condition.

Some genetic traits, such as perfectionism and sensitivity, are associated with anorexia nervosa. Psychological factors may also contribute to anorexia. Some people who develop the condition show obsessive-compulsive traits that make it easier for them to follow routines and a controlled diet. Some people may try to control their anxiety and other psychological conditions through anorexia. Finally, environmental influences also play a role in the development of anorexia. Particularly among women, success and self-esteem are equated with beauty standards, such as being thin.

Treatments for anorexia

Treatment for anorexia is not an easy path, as many people with the condition do not wish to seek help. Treatment is provided through a combination of factors and resources, including therapy, nutritional education, and medical treatment, in case of severe malnutrition or other medical complications related to anorexia nervosa. In severe cases of anorexia, it may be appropriate to feed the patient through a specially designed tube, as the patient may refuse to eat or be in a severely malnourished condition.

Treatment for anorexia should focus on several factors. The patient’s weight must be brought back to a healthy level. He or she must also learn that nutrition is a critical factor. Patients often receive meal plans and nutritional goals to work toward.

As treatment progresses to restore healthy eating habits and proper nutrition, patients may benefit from therapy sessions, including family therapy for young adults and adolescents. Ongoing therapy is particularly important, because healing from anorexia is extremely stressful and patients need a lot of support.

What specialist treats you?

A positive resolution of anorexia often requires the involvement of a team of experts consisting of psychologists, psychiatrists, dietitians, and pediatricians.