Anorexia nervosa, commonly called anorexia, is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder. Individuals with anorexia have a distorted body image that causes them to see themselves as overweight even when they're dangerously thin. They often restrict their eating to the point of starvation, exercise compulsively, and may develop unusual habits such as refusing to eat in front of others. If you or someone you know is suffering from anorexia, understanding more about it can help you cope.
This section contains information about what anorexia is, its symptoms, and how it can be diagnosed. Because anorexia is related to self-image and is not just about food, it can be difficult to overcome. With effective treatment, it’s possible for someone with anorexia to rebuild his or her self-image, adopt healthier eating patterns and reverse serious health complications.
For those who suspect a friend or family member has anorexia, it can be tough to know what to do. The Tips for Helping Someone With Anorexia page can give you some guidance to help you support your loved one.
Below are some warning signs of anorexia:
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, seek professional help. Eating disorders experts have found that prompt intensive treatment significantly improves the chances of recovery.
Anorexia nervosa, often called anorexia, is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder. Individuals with anorexia have a distorted body image that causes them to see themselves as overweight even when they're dangerously thin. They often restrict their eating to the point of starvation, exercise compulsively, and may develop unusual habits such as refusing to eat in front of others. This is in order to maintain a weight that’s far below normal for their age and height.
According to Psych Central , there are two types of anorexia nervosa:
Anorexia, however, is more than just a problem with food. It's a way of using food or starving oneself to feel more in control of life and to ease negative feelings, such as anger and anxiety. When you have anorexia nervosa, you often equate thinness with self-worth.
Because the body is denied essential nutrients, anorexia can lead to a wide range of health complications. This includes acute kidney failure, liver damage, as well as heart failure. It can also cause a reduction of bone density, muscle loss and weakness. Anorexia is often difficult to overcome. But effective treatment can help someone with this eating disorder improve their self-image, adopt healthier eating patterns and reverse some of anorexia’s serious health complications.
There are no simple answers to the causes of anorexia, as it is a complex condition that arises from a combination of many social, emotional, and biological factors. Some contributing factors could include family environment, emotional difficulties, low self-esteem, and traumatic experiences a person may have undergone in the past.
Anorexia typically appears in early to mid adolescence. Women are much more likely to develop anorexia, however, it can also affect boys and men.
When making a diagnosis, your doctor will generally ask questions about your weight and eating habits such as whether you have lost a lot of weight recently, how you feel about your weight, whether you think you are overweight, and if your periods have stopped.
If your doctor suspects you have anorexia, he or she will typically run tests and exams to rule out medical causes for the weight loss and to help pinpoint a diagnosis.
These tests can include:
You may also be referred by your doctor to a specialist or mental health provider for a more detailed assessment.
Treating anorexia is often a three-step process that involves:
Since anorexia involves both mind and body, a combined approach to treatment is often best. Treatment for anorexia will usually include medical care, nutritional counselling, and psychotherapy. The most effective treatment plan for you will depend on your particular symptoms, your age and situation.
For the best chance of recovery, it is important to start treatment as early as possible, particularly if you have already lost a lot of weight.
It can be tough to know what to do if you suspect a friend or family member has anorexia. The best thing you can do is to talk to the person about your concerns, as anorexia has serious physical and emotional consequences and should never be ignored. While your loved one may get defensive and deny that they have an eating disorder, there’s a chance that he or she will welcome the opportunity to open up about the struggle. Here are some suggestions for supporting your loved one: