Anorexia Rehab Centers
Many women and men have trouble with their body image, but individuals with anorexia nervosa have such an intense fear of weight gain that they lose much more weight than what is healthy for their age and height. Anorexia is dangerous, and is actually one of the mental health disorders with the highest rate of mortality.
Rehab centers for anorexia focus on helping individuals eat healthier, gain weight, and commit to a healthier lifestyle. The therapies, support system, and general level of care offered at rehab centers is very important for anorexia recovery.
Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia
The diagnostic criteria for anorexia are specific and offer medical care professionals a way to measure the severity of the problem, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Individuals with anorexia:
- Have an intense fear of gaining weight, even if and when they are underweight
- Refuse to keep weight at what is considered ‘normal’ for their age and height (less than 85% of what is considered normal)
- Distorted body image, inability to admit that weight loss can be dangerous
- For women, to have missed three or more consecutive menstrual periods
Individuals with anorexia sometimes hide their condition by wearing baggy clothes, or by not eating in front of people. It can be hard in that way to identify the problem until it gets very severe.
Some things to look out for are:
- Cutting food into small pieces, moving around plate instead of eating
- Exercising all of the time, even in bad conditions (weather, injury, busy schedule)
- Going to the bathroom right after meals
- Refusing to eat with others
- Preoccupation with food preparation
- Strange eating behaviors
- Skipping meals, making excuses not to eat
- Using pills as laxatives, appetite suppressants, or diuretics
- Blotchy or yellow skin, fine hair
- Confused or slow thinking, poor memory
- Dry mouth
- Extreme sensitivity to cold, wearing multiple layers of clothing for warmth
- Loss of bone strength
- Wasting away of muscle, loss of body fat
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, individuals with anorexia may also be socially withdrawn, irritable, mood, and/or depressed.
Diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa
While anorexia is often hidden by the person experiencing the condition, a psychiatrist or doctor may diagnose the disorder. A history of the person’s behavior will be gathered from parents, teachers, and clinical observers and a psychological survey or other testing would probably be conducted. In addition, your doctor may calculate your BMI, or body mass index. The UK National Institute of Health reports that normal adults have a BMI between 20 and 25while individuals with anorexia generally measure below 17.5.
In order to adequately diagnose the disorder, certain medical tests are often taken as well to see if something else is causing the weight loss and to determine what damage the weight loss has done to the patient’s body. Other conditions that could be causing excessive weight loss and similar symptoms include thyroid disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
According to MedlinePlus, these tests may include:
- Bone density test
- Complete blood count
- Kidney function tests
- Liver function tests
- Total protein
- Thyroid function test
The extreme weight loss associated with anorexia puts people at risk for developing an irregular heartbeat, having dangerously low levels of potassium and other nutrients, and being affected by various other health problems.
Types of Anorexia Nervosa
According to the University of Nevada there are two types of anorexia which describe how an individual experiences the disorder:
- Restricting type: The person has not engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior.
- Binge-eating/purging type: During the current episode of anorexia the person has regularly engaged in binge eating or purging behavior (self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives or diuretics)
Who Develops Anorexia Nervosa?
The onset of anorexia is usually in adolescence though it sometimes affects people who are even younger, or older. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it most commonly affects adolescent girls and young adult women but boys, men, and older women have been known to experience anorexia as well. About 5 to 10% of the people who develop the disorder are male.
Some groups are more at risk than others to develop the disorder, especially those for whom being thin is required in some way for their profession. These include models, athletes, and dancers. In addition, people with depression and/or anxiety disorders may be more likely to develop anorexia later in life while many people with anorexia are also affected by other mental health or substance use disorders.
Causes of Anorexia
There is no one pinned down cause of anorexia nervosa, though there are some theories as to how the disorder develops. It is thought that many factors play a role and that hormones, genes, and social attitudes are some of these factors.
The University of Maryland Medical Center provides these elements that likely work together to cause anorexia:
- Severe trauma or emotional stress during or right before puberty
- Abnormalities in brain chemistry, may involve serotonin
- Cultural environment that places value on thin bodies
- Tendency toward perfectionism, fear of being ridiculed or humiliated
- Family history of anorexia
Treatment at Anorexia Rehab Centers
Treatment for anorexia focuses on helping the individual restore a normal, healthy body weight. One of the biggest challenges with this is helping the person admit that they have a problem and need help. Given the fact that most people deny they have an eating disorder or genuinely do not think their weight loss is dangerous, this can be difficult. It is important, however, for the person to be actively involved in their treatment.
Treatment methods include psychotherapy, family therapy, and medication. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is one of the therapeutic options, and this is used to teach coping skills. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also used which helps by identifying unhealthy thoughts and behaviors and working on ways to change them. Group therapy and support groups are a great help for individuals with anorexia and are encouraged with treatment. They offer a safe environment where people can share their stories and learn from each other. Family therapy is also important as it helps the individual feel supported, and helps the family understand what they can do to help.
Medication is generally only used if the individual is also suffering from another mental illness for which medication is an appropriate treatment, such as depression or anxiety. At this point in time there are no medications that are used solely for the treatment of anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia rehab centers also focus on nutritional rehabilitation. This may include structured diets and supervised meals, or will be simply a nutritional plan for the individual. Using schedules for eating is normally a part of this as well. This is always coupled with therapy, where the goal is to encourage patients to eat in a healthier way.
The risk of relapse is high for individuals with anorexia nervosa. Relapse can be triggered by a variety of things. Stressful times in life may lead someone to relapse, as can social influences. For example, if someone often gets compliments and admiration for how thin they are, they will feed off of that. Coaches or other authority figures putting pressure on them to be thin and denial by these people and others that the person’s thinness could be dangerous is also an issue. In times of relapse, further treatment may be necessary.