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Anorexia nervosa: a severe eating disorder related to multiple factors

By Christine Traxler, MD

Anorexia nervosa is a severe eating disorder that involves obsession about one’s weight and obsession over the amount of food the individual eats and how much exercise they do. The patient with anorexia is often extremely thin and continues to starve themselves or excessively exercise.

Anorexia nervosa is a nervous disorder and an unhealthy way of coping with severe personal issues and being unable to control emotions. Sufferers feel a sense of poor self-worth and continue to try and get thinner in the hope of looking better. They do not see that they are, in fact, too thin and shouldn’t lose any more weight. It is a difficult mental disorder to overcome but is completely treatable under the right circumstances.

In anorexia, weight loss is primarily achieved by severely restricting the amount of calories taken in and by excessive exercise. Some have bulimic tendencies and will binge and purge as well. Misuse of laxatives, enemas or diuretics is also possible.

The major symptoms of anorexia nervosa include extremely thin weight, fatigue, insomnia, fainting or dizzy spells, abnormal blood cell counts, brittle nails, thinning or breaking hair, soft downy hair covering the body, constipation, cold intolerance, dry skin, loss of menstruation, low blood pressure, osteoporosis, dehydration, arm or leg swelling, loss of appetite, excessive exercise, preoccupation with food, depression and social withdrawal.

Families of patients with anorexia nervosa need to watch out for the patient skipping meals, exercising excessively, eating a severely restricted diet, lying about eating, weighing themselves obsessively, complaining about being fat and not wanting to eat in public. Food rituals are common.

The cause of anorexia nervosa is unknown. It is believed to have genetic factors, socio-cultural factors and psychological factors. If a woman has a mother or sister who had anorexia, they are at higher risk, suggesting a genetic component. Twin studies support this concept. There is an area on the first chromosome that appears to play a role in getting anorexia nervosa. Doctors believe that low serotonin levels play a role in the disease. There may be psychological reasons for getting anorexia nervosa.

Patients often have a low self-esteem and have traits consistent with obsessive compulsive disorder. The modern Western culture that values thinness is believed also to play a role in those who get the disorder. Models, dancers and actors have a high risk of getting the disease of anorexia nervosa.

Risk factors for getting anorexia nervosa include being female, being in the teens or early 20s, having fluctuations in weight and having a genetic tendency toward getting the disease. Life transitions can trigger anorexia nervosa as can being involved in activities like sports, dance, acting, modeling or other activity where thinness is valued. The media and society in general has created legions of those suffering from anorexia nervosa because of a perceived need to be thin.

Anorexia has significant complications from being underweight and malnourished. These include the risk of death, heart arrhythmia, anemia, lack of a menstrual period, bone loss and fractures of the bone later in life, decreased testosterone in males, nausea, vomiting or constipation, electrolyte abnormalities and kidney disease. All the body’s organs can be affected if there is severe malnutrition in the disease.

Mental complications include chronic anxiety or panic disorder, personality disorders, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder. Drug abuse can be a complication of anorexia nervosa.

Treatment of anorexia nervosa is imperative because it is a disease you can die from if left unchecked. The main treatment is medical care of the electrolyte disturbances, malnutrition and organ damage. Some of the organ damage is irreversible. A feeding tube may need to be placed so that the weight can be brought up to a normal level.

The patient needs to learn about proper nutrition and how to eat healthy.

Individual therapy, family therapy and group therapy may be necessary to control the obsessive compulsive aspects of the disease. Individual therapy focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy. Family therapy can help the family make good decisions around the patient’s eating problems. Group therapy allows the patient to get in touch with other people involved in the same disorder.

Antidepressants have been shown to have a modest effect on the treatment of anorexia. Medications that control anxiety play a role as well.

© Modern Tokyo Times

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Ummmmm...so everyday I am ready to slap almost everyone I meet here for obsessing about foot, my weight, their own weight...does that mean that everyone here is anorexic?

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Of course, I mistyped "food"...lol!

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Dyslectics untie!

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After reading the article on Kobe Beef, who care anorexia ? ! Surf-n-Turf is a better way to leave this world ! Besides, I don't want to leave hungry ?

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Anorexia is most likely an altered mental state created by Subliminal Distraction exposure. Complex behaviors like that can be created by operant conditioning. When the subliminal stimulation of the subconscious happens with Subliminal Distraction exposure and is perceived as a punishment or reward it can shape beliefs and behavior. Concerns of weight and physical appearance are raised to pathological levels producing life threatening activities.

There is a single case of a self trained Qi Gong user becoming addicted to performing the exercise with others. He would have been addicted to the subliminal stimulation of the subconscious while performing Qi Gong. That same stimulation can happen anywhere there is full mental investment with detectable movement in peripheral vision. It is accidental subliminal operant conditioning.

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i was anorexic when i was 15 and the horrible period lasted for around two years. up until then, i had been chubby. as a kid, people found me cute but when i got into in my teens some people insensitively commented on my weight and made fun of me. i was young and sensitive so i was really motivated to lose weight. i decided to go on an extreme diet (like less than 500 calories per day, i counted religiously) and parterned it with a daily exercise routine. i lost weight immediately so people praised me. i kinda got addicted to it. i admit, my self-esteem was really low back then. anorexia was hard to "sustain" because i was used to eating anything i wanted to. so i started to binge and purge - in other words, i also became bulimic. it was really a struggle for me. good thing my mom noticed the changes in me so she really helped me to recover. my case wasn't extreme (i only had some side effects like amennorhea, lanugo, etc. but i didn't need to be admitted to a hospital) but it still took a while to completely recover (i had several bouts of bulimia for about 7 years). i am in my mid-20's now and at a healthy weight. looking back, it was just so silly.

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tsukki ... glad to hear you are feeling better now. It is a truly horrible disease, which is all too often brushed aside nowadays.

This article is not so great, but I think any media promoting understanding of eating disorders is a good thing. Although, personally I would prefer to see more information and public awareness of the other extreme - binge and overeating. It seems to be a growing problem nowadays, even in Japan.

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