Anorexia is an eating disorder that is characterized by obsessive fear of gaining weight or of being overweight. People with anorexia nervosa have a distorted self image that causes them to thing about their body and eating in a way that makes them refuse to maintain a healthy weight. Anorexia is a serious mental health condition that requires specialized treatment such as that provided at eating disorder rehab centers.
Although anorexia is most likely to affect women and girls, men and boys are also affected by this common eating disorder and sometimes require treatment. If left untreated, anorexia nervosa can cause serious complication of the organs and may even result in death due to malnutrition, heart conditions and other medical conditions that result from the lack of eating.
Various signs and symptoms may be present in an individual who is anorexic. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of anorexia include dramatic weight loss, an obsession with calories or dieting, and various forms of purging. Purging is the use of laxatives, diet pills or self induced vomiting in order to get rid of food that is eaten.
People who suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia may also have certain rituals that they associate with eating. For instance, an anorexic individual may cut their food into very very tiny pieces before eating it or they may absolutely refuse to eat around people. These ritualistic tendencies are also associated with compulsive disorders such as OCD. People with anorexia nervosa often have additional mental disorders that must also be treated in addition to the anorexia.
Excessive vomiting may cause the cheeks to become swollen and the fingers may show signs of scarring known as Russell’s sign. This scarring is found on the knuckes and is a result of sticking the fingers down the throat in order to induce vomiting. Over time, people with anorexia may even develop calous on their knuckles as a result of Russell’s sign.
Some people with anorexia engage in constant exercise as a means of reducing calories. Strenuous exercise without proper nutrition can be harmful to the heart and to other organs of the body. Additionally, people who suffer from anorexia may wear baggy clothing so that their friends and family members cannot easily see how skinny they have become. This and many other means are taken to cover up self image, weight loss and anorexic tendencies that result from this eating disorder.
Various medical complications may result from anorexia nervosa. People with anorexia suffer from constipation, diarrhea, and electrolyte imbalance that can greatly hinder the function of the bowels, intestines and stomach. In the most severe cases of anorexia nervosa, when left untreated the individual could die from cardiac arrest. It is not uncommon for anorexic people to suffer from serious heart conditions or even to suffer from cardiac arrest more than once during the condition if it is left untreated.
Causes of eating disorders are not always known but in most cases can be attributed to a mental disorder. Biological factors and environmental factors are thought to have an effect on a person’s risk of developing anorexia nervosa. Further, gender does increase the likelihood of a person becoming anorexic. Recent studies even show that autism spectrum disorders may also play a role in a persons risk of becoming anorexic.
Biologic factors associated with anorexia include genetics, certain personality traits and nutritional deficiencies. Anorexia is a highly inheritable condition that is estimated to affect around 75% of people who have parents who are anorexic or who suffer from a similar eating disorder. Additionally, people who have certain personality traits may be more likely to suffer from eating disorder such as anorexia but these traits have not fully been narrowed down yet. Finally, people who suffer from nutritional deficiencies such as a Zinc deficiency may also be at a higher risk of suffering from anorexia.
Environmental causes of anorexia include the public perception of self image and the need to be thin in Western industrialized nations such as the United States. Studies have found that people with white families that are wealthy are more likely to suffer from anorexia than those who come from a lower socio-economic status. This is likely related to the media pressure for people to be thin. Additionally, people who have certain professions such as modeling, acting or dancing are under increased pressure to be thin and are more likely to develop anorexia as a result of this constant pressure.
Autism has also been linked to anorexia. Studies show that as many as 23% of people who suffer from long standing eating disorders such as anorexia also fall within the autism spectrum. People who fall within the autism spectrum have a significantly worse outcome for anorexia than those who do not fall within this medical abnormality. People who suffer from anorexia and also fall within the autism spectrum will often benefit from behavioral therapy and drug therapy to treat the autism rather than a specific therapy to treat the anorexia.
Eating Disorder Treatment Centers and Anorexia Treatment
Various types of treatment exists for anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. Most anorexia treatment will address three major concerns including the need to restore the individual to a healthy body weight, the need to treat underlying psychological disorders related to the anorexia and the need to eliminate the thoughts or behaviors that caused the eating disorder.
Eating disorder treatment centers provide nutritional counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy and medication to help the individual who suffers from anorexia to overcome this terrible eating disorder. Weight gain is essential to the treatment of anorexia nervosa but getting the anorexic individual to gain weight is a difficult process. Many people who suffer from anorexia will require inpatient treatment at eating disorder treatment centers so that they can constantly be monitored.
In some cases, medication will be used to treat eating disorder such as anorexia. Olansapine is a drug that has been proven effective in treating some of the aspects of anorexia nervosa but it is not always used for fear of an addiction to the drug. People with anorexia nervosa may also benefit from Olanzapine for it’s ability to help raise body mass index of the individual and to reduce obsessions about food or body weight.
Eating disorder rehab centers may also provide cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy as a means of effectively treating anorexia. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of treatment that uses a cognitive approach paired with a behavioral approach to treat obsessive disorders and other mental conditions. Such therapy has been found effective at treating anorexia nervosa and many other conditions and mental disorders.