Anorexia nervosa is a severe mental disorder in the category of eating disorders, characterized by the maintenance of a small, inadequate body weight, and a deformation of the image of its own body with a persistent fattening fear. Know the facts about anorexia nervosa!
Causes of Anorexia Nervosa
There is no single cause of this disease, which can be divided into three major categories:
- biological causes
- psychological causes
- social and cultural causes
- Biological causes:
- genetic factors – it has been shown that there is an increased percentage of eating disorders, mood disorder,s and anxiety disorders in the families of anorexic people. Hence, all these disorders share a common genetic trunk.
- neurobiological factors – tight correlations have been found between the serotonin neurotransmitter and various psychological phenomena such as mood, sleep, appetite, and sexual function.
- nutritional factors – the deficiency of certain nutrients such as tyrosine, serotonin, vitamin B1, and Zinc may be involved in the development of anorexia and other affective disorders.
- Psychological causes:
Numerous research on psychological factors suggests that some tendencies in thinking and perception can contribute to develop and maintain anorexia.
- Disturbing body image about yourself – anorectic patients tend to overestimate the size or fat of their body. Being in a constant struggle to achieve irrational expectations for its own weight and image, impossible to achieve physically, self-esteem decreases progressively.
- Predisposing to personality traits – a high level of obsessiveness, low self-esteem, high restriction capacity (resistance to temptation), and clinical levels of perfectionism.
- Psychopathological co-morbidities – the most common being clinical depression, anxious spectrum disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, borderline personality disorders. Substances abuse can sometimes coexist.
- Social and cultural causes:
- Promoting the slim body type as the ideal feminine form among Western industrialized countries, especially through the media.
- Occupation – some professional groups, such as ballerinas, gymnasts, and mannequins or photo-models, are at increased risk of developing eating disorders, rather than other professional groups.
Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is an extremely complex psychosomatic disorder involving psychological, neurobiological, and sociocultural components, as described above.
The anorexia nervosa patient is not necessarily lacking in appetite, but he deliberately eats very little.
Severe malnutrition caused by food restriction causes important psychiatric and cognitive impairment, including mood disorders, irritability, dysphoria, the tendency to social isolation, concentration disorder, and memory loss.
At the somatic level, malnutrition in anorexia nervosa cases can cause multiple symptoms:
- Endocrine disruption – amenorrhea, increased cortisol levels, decreased concentration, hypoglycemia with decreased insulin level, decreased urine concentration.
- Cardiovascular impairment – hypotension, sinus bradycardia, palpitations, cardiac arrhythmias.
- Gastrointestinal damage – abdominal pain and abdominal distension, constipation, esophagus lesions (esophagitis, erosions, or esophageal strictures), hypertrophy of the parotid, and submandibular glands.
- Dermatological damage – cold, thin skin, dry skin, brittle nails, brittle hair.
- Disorders in the ENT sphere – stomatitis, repeated laryngitis, tooth enamel damage, frequent dental cavities.
- Injuries to the locomotor apparatus – osteoporosis, bone fractures, growing delays.
- Haematological impairment – anemia, leukopenia, thrombocytopenia.
- Cerebral affection – widening of cerebral ventricles and a degree of cerebral atrophy.
Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa
Weight gain to normal values is the main objective in anorexia nervosa, especially in severe cases that are requiring hospitalization.
In particularly serious cases, there are non-voluntary admission procedures at the request of the family, with the advice of a psychiatrist. In most cases, sick people are treated outpatients by psychiatrists in collaboration with clinical psychologists and nutritionists.
The psychotherapy approach of patients with anorexia nervosa is difficult due to their lack of motivation. For this reason, it is recommended that the psychotherapy should be performed by professionals familiar with the specific problems of people with anorexia nervosa. Studies conducted to support the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, supportive care, and nutrition-oriented counsel.
Complications and Evolution of Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia is considered to be one of the psychiatric disorders with a high mortality rate of about 10%, and the risk of suicide in patients suffering from anorexia nervosa is higher than in the general population and is considered to be a major cause of death.
It is estimated that less than half of the patients heal completely, one-third is getting better and around 20% remain chronic sufferers.
Chronic patients remain after alleviation of symptoms with personality disorders that require long periods of analytical, cognitive, or supportive psychotherapy.
Early detection and treatment of anorexia nervosa are important for recovery and prevention of the progression of the disease that could lead complications or death. The longer the anorexia is untreated, the more difficult it is to correct the inappropriate eating behavior.
Since most cases of anorexia begin in adolescence, family members should be the first to recognize the symptoms of the disease.
Unfortunately, there is no routine screening for eating disorders. People with anorexia nervosa are not aware of the danger they are self-exposing. Often, family or friends insist and encourage the patient to seek a specialist’s opinion. However, the symptoms can only be evident after anorexia has been present for a long time.
Anorexia nervosa is a real medical condition that needs a proper treatment in order to regain your health. Don’t be shallow regarding this issue if you’re suffering from anorexia nervosa and seek medical attention immediately.
As in the case of overweight people, underweight people are not healthier than normal people. A normal weight is the only weight which is healthy, and all of you should keep this in mind.
Know the facts about anorexia nervosa, see if they match with your condition and start the journey to regain your health.