What is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss and trouble in maintaining the right weight for the body height, age and build. Generally, people with anorexia show abnormality of limiting their calorie intake and being picky-choosy with the kind of food they eat. Some of them exercise impulsively, purge via vomiting, laxatives and end up binge eating.
Anorexia can affect people of all ages, gender, races and ethnicities. The disorder is more evident in people during their adolescent stage and also seen in many children and older adults too.
Types of Anorexia Nervosa
There are two common types of anorexia:
Binge and Purge Type –In this type, the person will often purge or puke after eating. This eases the fear of gaining weight and makes up for the guilt of having eaten restricted food. The compensatory purge behaviour by the individual with binge type anorexia may also be accompanied by exercising extremely, vomiting or misusing laxatives.
Restrictive Type- Here, the person is often observed as highly self-disciplined. They limit the quantity of food intake and completely avoid high fat or high sugar foods. They consume very few calories than required to maintain a healthy weight.
Both the types of eating disorder exhibit similar symptoms such as irrational fear of weight gain and unusual eating patterns.
Causes of Anorexia Nervosa
This can be categorised under genetic predisposition, personality characters and environmental factors.
For instance, the environmental factors that would add to the occurrence of eating disorder could be:
✓ The hype about size zero figure that the media portrays; persistent emphasis that skinny people are the ideal typecasts.
✓ Profession and careers that encourage being thin, such as modelling and air hostess.
✓ Peer pressure among friends and colleagues to be thin and maintain figure.
Biological Factors include:
✓ Irregular hormone functions
✓ Genetics (research is still being carried on in this field to figure out the link between anorexia and one’s genes)
Signs & Symptoms
✓ Restrictive eating, beyond limits.
✓ Swiftly losing weight or being emaciated
✓ Always fussing about food with high calories and fatty foods.
✓ Involving in formalized eating patterns, such as cutting food into small pieces, eating alone, and hiding food.
✓ Sustained obsession with food, recipes, or cooking.
✓ Amenorrhea: absence of menstrual cycles
✓ Depression or fatigued stage
✓ Feeling of cold sensations, especially in extremities.
✓ Loss or thinning of hair
✓ Isolated from family, friends and withdrawn from social set- ups
Anorexia Nervosa Treatment
The holistic treatment of anorexia involves a team of therapists consisting of a physician, a therapist who would be a subject matter expert and a nutritionist.
Medical-The first priority in the treatment of anorexia nervosa is to attend serious health issues such as malnutrition, electrolyte imbalance, amenorrhea and an unstable heartbeat.
Nutritional-This includes weight restoration, implementation and supervision of a tailored meal plan and education about the importance of healthy eating patterns.
Therapy: The main aim of this part of the treatment is to understand issues related to the eating disorder, address it and change, starting from daily habits, learning healthier skills and developing the ability to express and deal with emotions.
Early treatment may be the best way to prevent the disorder from progressing. Knowing the early signs and seeking treatment right away can help prevent complications of anorexia nervosa.