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Anorexia, also known as anorexia nervosa, is a disorder in which the sufferer does not recognize their own true body’s appearance, and continuously starves themselves or restricts food intake to lose weight. An anorexic does not need to be terribly underweight, although doctors tend to diagnose anorexia once the patient has lost 15% or more of their healthy body weight. At this stage, the anorexia is full blown and requires immediate treatment and intervention in order to prevent the patient from starving themselves to death.

Anorexia is not just a problem facing teenage girls. While most patients who suffer from anorexia are either girls or women, men and teenage boys also can develop anorexia. Statistics show that women in their late twenties and early thirties who struggled with an eating disorder once before are now relapsing at an alarming rate.


Symptoms of anorexia are very difficult to recognize, as the anorexic goes to great lengths to hide their eating disorder. Symptoms may include an unhealthy obsession with weight, theirs and anyone who may be thinner than they are, hiding food in their napkin during meal times, weighing themselves more than once or twice a day, skipping meals, exercising excessively, and continuously reducing their caloric intake until they reach about 300-500 calories per day. Lying is part of an anorexic’s effort to hide the problem, and they may hide their symptoms until they have lost so much weight that other health variables begin to appear.
Image: Anorexia


Causes of anorexia are somewhat known and somewhat unknown. An anorexic does not start off believing that they are atrociously overweight, but as they become obsessed, they begin to view themselves without a sound ability to determine their own accurate body image. Factors that often lead to anorexia include intense pressure, stress, an inability to cope with demands, an unhealthy environment, and the need to please others even at their own expense. Anorexia was once thought to be a specific disease that struck upper class high pressure households, however time has proven that anyone can develop anorexia as a coping skill if they are inclined to eat less under stress. Anorexics see self starvation as a method of determining control over their own lives and as a stress management tool.


Risk factors for anorexia include being an athlete, especially in women’s athletics where size matters such as figure skating, ballet, dance, and other culturally expected pencil thin participants, victims of trauma, victims of violence, victims of familial abuse, and over achievers.


Diagnosis of anorexia typically involves a physical and psychological exam. While many doctors will not determine an anorexic is suffering from the disease unless they have lost 14% of their healthy body weight, more progressive physicians are determining anorexia through behavior, not body weight. Not all anorexics are skeletally thin. A recovered anorexic who has relapsed several times will not lose weight quickly, as their metabolism has been damaged, but they can still cause damage to the internal organs while they are making the effort to lose the weight. A psychological evaluation will determine if their behaviors and thoughts are obsessive, and this can also lead to a diagnosis.


Complications from anorexia are quite severe, and intervention is required in the earliest stage possible. Fine hair may grow over their body and their scalp hair may begin to fall out in clumps. Menses ceases once the anorexic loses too much body weight or drops below 100 pounds. Kidney or liver damage is possible and eventually the stress on the heart may overtake them. Anorexics tend to develop problems with their bones, their teeth eventually rot out, and their skin becomes pale grey, or yellow if they are developing kidney failure.


Treatment options are determined by the severity of the disease and the physical complications which have set in. Outpatient treatment is possible for those who have not progressed to dangerous levels of involvement. Tube feeding, inpatient treatment, and medications including antidepressants are typically prescribed for those who have progressed beyond losing 14% of their healthy body weight.

Anorexia is a disease that most people who have struggled with it must struggle with it for life. A recovered anorexic understands they have a problem, knows what their triggers are, and knows when to ask for help before it becomes too late. An anorexic must acknowledge they have a serious problem before recovery can begin.
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Medication commonly used for these disease:

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