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Anorexia Nervosa

Signs, Risk Factors & Treatments

Anorexia is a serious and a potentially life threatening mental illness. Patients with the disorder are considered very unwell and need a good treatment.

There is no particular reason for the disorder.The causes of anorexia differs from person to person, including

  • genetic predisposition
  • a negative self-image
  • an anxiety disorder as a child or
  • a mixed reaction to social and cultural factors

Teens are more prone to suffer from anorexia. Females suffer from the disorder more than males.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

It is a mental illness, defined as a complex eating disorder. Patients with the disorder are unable to maintain a healthy body weight, have an intense fear of weight gain and have a distorted body image. Patients become very concious about their diet, eating habits and their body which may take their whole day and leaving them with little or no time to become social or enjoy other activities.

In this disorder, it doesn’t matter how skinny one is, it is never enough.

Comparing Anorexia and Dieting

It is must to understand the differences between healthy dieting and anorexia. These are two different aspects.


  • It is a way to control weight.
  • Self-image is just based on getting into the right shape that makes you look attractive.
  • Goal is to lose weight without getting unwell and emotional.


  • It is an attempt to control your life and emotions.
  • Your self-image is entirely based on how much you lose and how thin you are.
  • The goal is to lose weight without concern for one’s health.

Major Risk Factors

Early diagnosis and treatment is must for the disorder because it leads to multiple risk factors.

  • Body dissatisfaction all the time
  • Strict dieting
  • Low self-esteem
  • Losing interest  in activities
  • Troubled family relationships
  • Physical problems such as lack of energy, poor memory, anaemia, low blood pressure, dizziness etc…
  • Death due to over dieting


  • Intense fear of regaining weight
  • inability to maintain weight that suits age and height (15% or below than the average weigh
  • Distorted body image
  • Cutting food amount severely
  • Going to the bathroom right after meal
  • Over exercise
  • Physical weakness


Signs for immediate action include

o   Depression

o   Dry mouth

o   Weakness

o   Faintness

o   Sever loss of body fat

o   Yellow skin

o   Confusion or poor memory


Various tests are required to help find the cause of weight loss and to discover the damage it has caused. Some tests are required to monitor the improvement.

  • CBC
  • Kidney Function Tests
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Electrolytes
  • ECG
  • Bone density Test
  • Albumin
  • Urinalysis


It is challenging to help one realize that the he /she has a mental illness. Mostly patients deny having an eating disorder. People often consider treatment only when the condition becomes serious.

Goals of anorexia treatment are to restore the normal body weight and eating habits. Weekly 1 to 3 pounds weight gain is considered a safe goal. Care providers who are usually involved in the treatment are: nurse practitioners, dieticians, physicians and psychiatrists. Mental health care providers play an important role as they motivate the patient.

Different kinds of talk therapy are used including

  • cognitive behaviour therapy
  • family therapy
  • group therapy

The goal is to change the patient’s thoughts and behaviour to improve their eating habits. Patients are encouraged to participate in social activities.

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