Anorexia Nervosa: Definition, Side Effects, Symptoms

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Many in this modern world are concerned about maintaining their body weight, and that’s normal. The extreme is the case when someone getting over-conscious about body weight chooses the path of self-starvation. The continuance of anorexia nervosa as an eating disorder can become life-threatening and needs immediate treatment. 

So are you confused about whether you or your close ones are suffering from the disorder? How to come out of anorexia and related information! Well, stay in touch with this article till the end. 

What is Anorexia Nervosa Definition? 

Defining Anorexia Nervosa is not easy. But simply, it is referred to as a kind of eating and psychological disorder that gets life-threatening with time. 

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Anorexia creates an unreliable overweight body image in the subject’s mind, due to which they get critical about taking a stable diet. 

What is Anorexia Nervosa Definition
What is Anorexia Nervosa Definition

To purge the gained calories, they compulsively exercise or vomit frequently. If not addressed appropriately, this can result in severe health problems or ultimately can cause death. 

Though life-threatening, such disorders can be overcome in the initial stages with nutritional counseling or psychological therapy. 

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Anorexia Diet Refers To: 

When someone you know tries to restrict extreme calories from their food intake desperately, then that’s called an Anorexia diet. Such situations are found mainly in the case of women who impatiently try to restrict their food choices. As an outcome, they stay denied the daily needed body nutrients.

Such restrictions in food habits are often associated with Ana’s boot camp diet, where a person sustains nearly two months of fasting. 

Each day apparently, they consume even less than a thousand calories and complement it with excessive water consumption. 

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Who are the usual victims of Anorexia Nervosa? 

Teenagers within the range of 14-16 years of age are more likely to be affected by anorexia in developed and developing countries. Over the years, the targeted group suffering from Nervosa has widened and requires immediate handling. 

Earlier, women from rich and middle-class family backgrounds were only suspected. However, now even men and women from all age groups are becoming victims of such psychological disorders. The diagnosis has become common in the last two decades. 

What Causes Anorexia? 

The reason for suffering from anorexia can be interconnected and based on multiple factors. Here are some of the usual Anorexia Nervosa causes: 

1. Family Background 

Most behavioral ailments or eating disorders are determined based on family history. Though anorexia cannot be inherited through genes, the possible exposures to anorexia can be transferred across generations. 

The research from twin studies revealed that there are more than sixty percent chances of hereditary transfer of the vulnerabilities of Anorexia Nervosa. 

2. Psychological Problem

Often people with Nervosa face the spillover effect of confronting other mental disorders or vice versa. 

Due to co-occurring disorders, more than one disorder contributes to subsequent mental complexities. 

3. Societal Factors

It has been found that most teenagers, with their obsession with trendy looks and keeping themselves updated with modern fashion, get trapped with such disorder. 

Other than that, peer pressure and picturizing success with thin body types also contribute to Anorexia Nervosa. 

Can Trauma Lead To Anorexia? 

Trauma is a result of witnessing or experiencing undesirable past incidence that primarily leads to eating disorders. As earlier mentioned, people may choose Nervosa as a self-harming behavior where such a self-destructive attitude can be a direct or indirect result of any trauma.

Other than that, distorted body image can also be related to body shaming trauma. So, the severity of anorexia is directly dependent on how long a particularly traumatic incident resides on the individual’s psyche. 

Early Signs of Anorexia Nervosa 

It’s a fact that prevention is better than remedying later; therefore, be aware of the premature signs of anorexia. From this point, you should prevent anyone you know from having anorexia. 

Early Signs of Anorexia Nervosa
Early Signs of Anorexia Nervosa
  • Gradually starting to lose weight. 
  • When someone hesitates to say about what they have eaten or feels shame in saying how much they weigh. 
  • To hide how much they had eaten, they would slowly eat.
  • Breaking their meals numerous times a day. 

Many of these signs may look normal, but such ignorance would delay puberty in cases of children. For adults, further complexities like osteoporosis or menstrual problems arise. 

Some Anorexia Symptoms

From a layman’s viewpoint, anyone can identify a person with anorexia based on their physical appearance. However, such is not the case for any individual having anorexia undergoing behavioral or mental challenges.

So, it leaves out the only chances of an underweight person having Nervosa. Some of the identified Anorexia symptoms can be clubbed into three categories: mental, behavioral, and physical. 

Some Anorexia Symptoms
Some Anorexia Symptoms

Physical Anorexia Symptoms 

The physical symptoms are easily traceable with their weight compared to their age, sex, and height. Other than the weight-related consideration, other symptoms one can notice are- 

  1. Unfamiliar transformation of Body Mass Index (BMI) in a lesser amount of time with changes in the growth of curve for children. 
  2. Unusual shedding of weight over a month for adults or teens.
  3. Easily get tired. 
  4. Dizziness or fainting. 
  5. Lack of concentration. 
  6. Excessive pain in the abdominal region. 
  7. Lack of strength or weakening muscles. 
  8. Thin hair or brittle nails. 
  9. Scratchy skin. 
  10. Hypotension is known as low blood pressure. 
  11. Uneasiness while breathing. 
  12. Shivering or feeling cold at normal temperature. 
  13. Amenorrhea or irregular menstrual cycle. 
  14. Often becoming ill or when it takes extra time to heal any wound. 
  15. Pale skin or purplish texture to limbs or hands. 
  16. An unreasonable amount of exercising daily to purge the food intake. 

Note that experiencing dehydration, dizziness, dry skin type, and hypotension as side effects of anorexia can also occur due to starvation or malnutrition. 

Behavioral Anorexia Symptoms 

If you are unsure whether your known one is facing Anorexia Nervosa, you should closely observe their behavior. If any one of the symptoms matches, they should seek treatment. 

  1. Not enjoying the usual company of family and friends while eating. 
  2. Maintaining their diet even in the case of known body weight. 
  3. Take appetite supplements or dietary pills.
  4. Intentionally vomiting after intake of food to cleanse it out. 
  5. A drastic change in food preferences and compromising of particular dishes from their diet. 
  6. Irregular eating habits. 
  7. Frequently visiting the washroom after a meal. 
  8. Often complaining about being obese or overweight. 
  9. Facing the mirror and making comments on feeling fat. 
  10. When they choose to wear loose clothes to hide their body weight. 

Psychological Symptoms

Other than the other two categories, these are the most difficult ones for detecting someone with anorexia. To get some help, look at those common mental symptoms that a patient with such an eating disorder goes through. 

  1. Being apprehensive about extra body weight. 
  2. Suffering from self-destructive or suicidal thoughts. 
  3. Being ignorant about being underweight compared to height, sex, age, etc.  
  4. Tries to skip meals regularly. 
  5. Suffering from anxiety or depression
  6. Critical about specific food types. 
  7. Confronting other psychological disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, etc. 

Most of the symptoms mentioned above are traceable except for a few. Remember that many of the symptoms are interconnected with other stated ones. So, while observing someone, you should carefully consider them. 

Tests To Diagnose Anorexia Nervosa 

Some of the tests that can potentially diagnose anorexia are- 

  • CBC or Complete Blood Count for assessing the overall health. 
  • Bone density test. 
  • Electrocardiogram. 
  • Liver and kidney function tests. 
  • Pregnancy tests. 

As published by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) also underlines how a health professional can diagnose anorexia based on analyzing an individual’s fear of gaining weight. 

Anorexia Nervosa Treatments

The primary aim of treating patients with such disorders is to restore their already lost body weight. Along with that, the main aim is to address complex emotional issues such as rectifying the abrupt thinking style or building confidence in the individual’s body image. So, treatment for Anorexia Nervosa is a blend of these methods- 

Anorexia Nervosa Treatments
Anorexia Nervosa Treatments

1. Nutrition Counseling

A counselor specializing in the field would treat anorexia by making the individual aware of normal patterns. 

The professional counselor would properly educate the sufferer about the necessity of a balanced and nutritional diet. Gradually, a healthy connection between food and eating would build. 

2. Psychotherapy

An appointment with a psychiatrist is useful to treat Nervosa. Their counseling would transform the thinking and behavioral style of the person with an eating disorder. 

They use several practical therapies which develop an accepting attitude toward food and body weight. Some of the identified therapies are – Dialectical behavior therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and more. 

3. Group Therapies

In group therapy, more than five to six members gather in a place and share their thoughts about the eating disorder. It’s one of the helpful therapies because people in a group get open up and try to find a way from the raised concerns. 

4. Through Medication

Doctors prescribe antidepressant medications like SSRIs or serotonin reuptake inhibitors and olanzapine, which control depression or anxiety associated with anorexia. 

Some Medicated sleeping pills also boost appetite. Doctors may also suggest weight-gaining supplements to restore a healthy weight. 

5. Admitted To Hospitals

Severe cases from malnutrition, starvation, or other physical complications would need immediate hospitalization to cure the individual. Often, mental concerns such as preventing suicidal thoughts and depression require admission to hospitals. 

6. The Need For Family Support 

Any kind of eating or psychological disorder mainly needs family support to overcome the crisis. Members of a family should closely observe the signs and symptoms of the disorder and take measures accordingly. 

A Better Future 

Just like any other eating or mental disorder, Anorexia Nervosa is life-threatening if not addressed in time. Therefore, anyone suffering from such a disorder needs to work on their self-esteem and should accept what they are. The role of the friends or family members of such patients is to support them by trying to build confidence in them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Q.1. What are the 5 symptoms of anorexia? 

Answer- The symptoms of anorexia can be categorized into three groups mainly physical, mental, and behavioral. Among the five main symptoms are – excessive weight loss in a short period, vomiting after food intake, depression, frequent visiting the bathroom after having a meal, and skipping meals regularly. 

Q.2. What causes anorexia? 

Answer- Anorexia can be a result of some traumatic experiences or can be because of hereditary transformation of the vulnerabilities of such a disorder. Peer pressure can also cause anorexia. 

Q.3. What is an example of anorexia?

Answer- An example of anorexia can be long-term fasting or restricting food intake. Or maybe when someone tries to get rid of the food by vomiting frequently. 

Q.4. What happens when anorexic? 

Answer- When someone suffers from anorexia then, they frequently lose weight and get involved in complex health issues such as abdominal pain, cardiac diseases, or lack of bone strength due to osteoporosis. 

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Dr. Shefali Oliver
Dr. Shefali Oliver
Dr. Shefali Oliver is a leading expert in the field of mental health. He has been in private practice for over 8 years and has a reputation for providing compassionate and effective care to his patients. Additionally, Dr. Shefali is a strong advocate for mental health awareness and works to educate the public on the importance of seeking help when dealing with mental health issues.

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