Anorexia nervosa, also known as anorexia, is an eating disorder. There is abnormally low body weight and intense fear of gaining weight. It’s common in women. Most of them are young girls. However men can also have the disease rarely. It’s commoner in the industrial countries. And also it’s common in higher socioeconomic classes.
People with anorexia nervosa deliberately try to lose weight. Because they think excessively about their body figure. And they have fear on their body image distortion. Most of the time it’s due to social influences. Social pressure to become thin is common. In that media plays a major role. Media obsession with models and celebrities who are thin and portrayal of the ideal female body as thin cause body image dissatisfaction. This may occur especially among young women. So these will lead to do various experiments to lose weight. Finally it may become an eating disorder.
Due to the fear of weight gain people with anorexia usually severely restrict the amount of food they eat. They may control calorie intake by vomiting after eating or by misusing laxatives, diuretics or enemas. They may also try to lose weight by exercising excessively. No matter how much weight is lost, they continue to fear weight gain. Even very thin women also think that they have an excessive weight.
Causes of anorexia nervosa
As I said before, social influence is a major factor. But there are several other causes of anorexia nervosa.
Every person who is dieting not affected by this. But the vulnerable ones are at risk. People with some personality types of obsessive compulsive (OCD) and dependents are more likely to develop eating disorders.
There is also a genetic predisposition. So if there is a family member with an eating disorder the risk is very high.
Symptoms of anorexia nervosa
There may be physical symptoms due to starvation in anorexia nervosa. Some psychological symptoms are also common.
Physical symptoms and signs.
- Emaciated body
- Dry skin and brittle nails
- Hypotension and bradycardia
- Cyanosis and low body temperature
- Eroded tooth enamel
- Parotid gland swelling
- Renal stones
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Reduced desire to sexual activities
Apart from these, failure of breast development and ankle swelling also can be seen.
- Low mood
- Deliberate self harm
- Suicidal ideation
- Social withdrawal
- Severely restriction of food
- Excessive exercises
- Self induce vomiting after eating or misusing laxatives, diuretics or enemas.
Complications of anorexia nervosa
Anorexia can have numerous complications. It can be fatal. Even death may occur sometimes. Some studies say it can be fatal even when someone is not severely underweight. Finally, this may result from abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) or an imbalance of electrolytes. Electrolytes are the minerals that maintain the fluid balances in your body.
Apart from above major complications following are some other complications of anorexia nervosa.
- Anemia is low blood counts in the body.
- Heart problems also common. They include mitral valve prolapse, abnormal heart rhythms or even heart failure.
- Osteoporosis is increasing the risk of fractures.
- Loss of muscle mass
- In females, absence of a periods
- In males, decreased testosterone
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, bloating or nausea
- Kidney problems such as kidney failure.
If the anorexia is very severe it may affect most of the organs in your body. Nearly every organ including brain, heart and kidneys can get damaged.
And also there is risk of mental disorders. Here are some examples:
- Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders
- Personality disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD)
- Alcohol and substance misuse
- Self-injury, suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
Diagnosis and treatment of anorexia nervosa
There are ICD-10 diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa.
- Body weight at least 15% below the expected range or BMI less than 17.5.
- Self induction of weight loss due to fear of weight gain. One or more of the following. self induced vomiting, self induced purging, excessive exercise, use of appetite suppressants or diuretics.
- There is body image distortion.
- Symptoms of endocrine disorders. Loss of periods in women and loss of sexual interest and potency in men are some examples.
If you have above features you have to visit your doctor. Because early identification and treatment can reduce bad outcomes of anorexia nervosa. Doctors will do several blood and imaging investigations.
Treatments are depend on the patient. Some common interventions are as follow:
- Supervised feeding.
- Treating other physical complications.
- Cognitive behavior therapy.
- Treating associated psychiatric problems.
- Counsel the family members and get their support. Because it’s very important in the management.
- Prevent relapse of disease.
- Sometimes drugs also can be given.