Anorexia Nervosa is a potentially deadly eating disorder that is characterized by marked weight loss and severe body image disturbance. This psychological disorder primarily affects women who have low self esteem and an unrealistic and obsessive fear of gaining weight.
Women diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa control their weight through self-imposed starvation (avoiding food), eating and purging (vomiting), excessive exercise, diet pills, drug use and laxative abuse.
Anorexics share an intense fear of gaining weight and refuse to maintain their body weight above 85% of the expected weight for their age and height.
In addition to the affects on the body externally, anorexia nervosa causes damage to the inside of the esophagus when food is repeatedly regurgitated (swallowed and brought back up). The constant irritation of the esophagus can lead to esophagitis, an inflammatory condition that can cause scarring and narrowing of the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow or keep food down.
Frequent episodes of vomiting can lead to severe dehydration which results in electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrest and possible death.
Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
- Weight loss
- Skin changes
- Amenorrhea (missed periods)
- Fatigue, weakness, lethargy
- Cold intolerance
- Sexual dysfunction
- Tooth decay (from the effects of stomach acid on enamel)
Treatment includes psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, anti-depressant meds, and in extreme cases, hospitalization in a medical or psych ward setting.
Anorexics are difficult to treat because they don't believe they have an eating disorder and they often relapse into their former eating and purging pattern after treatment. The difference between a patient with anorexia nervosa and bulimia is the bulimia patient maintains their weight above average or just below average. Additionally, rather than avoiding food (as the anorexic does) the bulimia patient (secretly) binges on food and then purges (vomits) due to strong feelings of shame and guilt.
If you believe you or someone you know is suffering from anorexia nervosa or bulimia, get help immediately by calling an anorexia treatment center in your area.
This has been your Medical Minute.
Info On The Web
- Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders - (770) 458-8711
- Ridgeview Institute - (770) 434-4567
- Atlanta Eating Disorders - (404) 378-4167
As always, any medical information published on this blog is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with your personal physician or a health care provider.