Anorexia Nervosa

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Anorexia nervosa is one of the common and well-known eating disorders. This disorder can affect people at any age, from adolescents to senior citizens. It can also lead to serious complications if it is left untreated. Below is some basic information about anorexia nervosa, its implications for patients and treatment recommendations.


What Is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is usually characterized by food restriction and/or extreme exercise. This disorder usually begins in adolescence, but it can develop earlier or later in life as well. A person can be suffering from anorexia without looking sick or emaciated. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, an anorexia nervosa diagnosis requires patients to meet the following criteria:

1. Unreasonable influence of an individual’s weight or shape on self-evaluation, denial of the seriousness of low body weight or disturbance in the way an individual’s shape or weight is experienced.

2. Intense fear of becoming overweight or gaining weight even while being underweight.

3. Restriction of energy intake relative to the body’s requirements, which leads to a low body weight.

In some cases, an individual may have an eating disorder even if he or she does not meet the requirements for anorexia nervosa diagnosis. In such cases, the individual may receive a diagnosis of atypical anorexia even if all of these criteria are not met.

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Take the first steps on your journey to recovery, please fill out the form below:

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Pathophysiology of Anorexia Nervosa

 In 2018 Oliver-Pyatt Centers (OPC) began a comprehensive research study, approved by an Institutional Review Board, in order to assess treatment outcomes in our Residential, PHP and IOP levels of care. Specifically, patients who consent to participate in our research study complete a series of questionnaires upon admission, transfer to a new level of care (stepping up or down), as well as upon discharge from the program. Additionally, we obtain follow-up data for patients who consent at specified time-points after their discharge.

The purpose of these questionnaires is multifaceted. Primarily, it represents our commitment to personalized treatment planning. This data provides a snapshot of each patient’s distinctive symptom presentation on measures of eating disorder symptoms, depression, anxiety, functional impairment, and trauma reactivity. This information deepens our understanding of the clinical challenges specific to each patient and as a roadmap for exploration of the factors that may be maintaining the eating disorder.

Doctors do not know the exact cause of anorexia nervosa disorder. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, researchers have identified several different factors that may lead to the development of anorexia nervosa, including environmental factors, psychological factors, and biological factors.

Environmental factors contributing to the development of anorexia nervosa include unrealistic body image goals, as well as peer pressure. In Western culture, thinness is emphasized, leading individuals to develop unrealistic perceptions of the ideal weight and body shape. These ideals also lead to peer pressure, especially for young females.

Psychological factors contributing to the development of anorexia nervosa include anxiety, perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive personalities. All of these traits can increase the likelihood of an individual to develop an obsession with being thin, as well as a dedication to a strict diet despite negative physical, psychological and social consequences.

Finally, some researchers believe that biological factors may also contribute to the development of this disorder. Certain individuals may have genes that make them tend toward perfectionism. Likewise, genes that support perseverance may be associated with anorexia nervosa, as these individuals are able to remain committed to even the most unhealthy methods of losing weight.

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa can vary from one individual to the next. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Exercising excessively
  • Restricting food intake severely.
  • Binging and purging
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Swelling of legs and arms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Dry or yellow skin
  • Intolerance of cold
  • Fainting
  • Appearing very thin
  • Thinning hair or hair loss
  • Fatigue

People who have anorexia nervosa may also exhibit psychological or behavioral changes, such as social withdrawal, irritability, odd eating behaviors, covering up in layers of clothing, preoccupation with food and preoccupation with weight or other perceived flaws

Anorexia Nervosa Treatment

The complications of untreated anorexia nervosa may be severe. In fact, this disorder can even be fatal if it progresses without intervention. Proper anorexia nervosa treatment is necessary in order to prevent the development of serious complications. The causes and symptoms of anorexia nervosa vary, so therapy for anorexia nervosa should be customized to meet the needs of each individual patient.

The best anorexia recovery programs are those that begin by identifying the factors that led to the development of the disorder. These programs then focus on addressing each of these factors while simultaneously treating any physical symptoms or complications of the disorder that may have already developed.

If you or a loved one is suffering from anorexia nervosa, you will have a variety of anorexia nervosa treatment centers to choose from. While some anorexia nervosa treatment centers treat this disorder only, others treat both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Oliver Pyatt Centers bridge this gap while offering state-of-the-art approaches and medical treatment in a judgment-free setting.