Anorexia nervosa: symptoms, causes and treatment

The imposition of absolutely impossible beauty canons by society is on the rise and although many revolutions we are experiencing aim to change them, they still have a strong impact on people’s minds and self-esteem.

One of the direct consequences of these beauty models is the appearance and increase in cases of eating disorders, among them anorexia nervosa. Throughout this article, we’ll be talking about the characteristics of this disorder, as well as its symptoms, causes, and possible treatments.

    What is anorexia nervosa?

    In the classification of eating disorders, we find a disorder called anorexia nervosa, or simply anorexia. Although it occurs mainly in women, this disease affects more and more men and causes those who suffer from it. the need to restrict food intake, With the consequent weight loss.

    The goal of this behavioral model is to lose body mass, because people with anorexia feel overweight, even below the recommended weight for their height and age. This makes anorexia a very dangerous disorder, as it can lead to death from malnutrition or cause illness due to weakened body tissues and the immune system.

    This decrease in body weight can reach dangerously low levels, as the restriction of food intake is caused by an exacerbated fear of losing weight coupled with a distorted perception of one’s own body.

    This means that no matter how thin or too much weight the person loses, it is never enough, because looking in the mirror will continue to perceive a distorted figure that does not correspond to reality. This leads the patient to make all kinds of food sacrifices.

    Among these sacrifices are all kinds of weight loss or not weight loss behaviors with people with anorexia nervosa excessively limiting the amount of food they eat. In the same way, they can resort to purgative behaviors, Use laxatives and diuretics, and exercise excessively to burn calories.

    The reality is that in anorexia it does not matter how the patient tries to lose weight other than the exaggerated fear that he has of increasing it.

      What is the difference between bulimia?

      Although the purgative behaviors mentioned above may be associated with another eating disorder known as bulimia, there are a number of key differences between the two disorders: In anorexia, these purgative episodes do not occur. not always occur, while in bulimia it is an essential condition for diagnosis.

      In bulimia, the person ingests large amounts of food, usually high in calories, in a short period of time. These are the so-called frenzy. However, in anorexia, the person avoid eating at all costs and perform thorough calorie control.

      People with anorexia are characterized by a dangerously low body weight, while in bulimia they usually have a normative or even higher weight than what is recommended.

        What are the symptoms?

        As discussed above, the main symptoms of anorexia are related to withholding or restricting food intake, low body weight, and excessive fear of weight gain.

        however, there are a variety of symptoms in this eating disorder. These symptoms can be classified into two groups: physical symptoms and behavioral and emotional symptoms.

        1. Physical symptoms

        The physical symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

        • Excessively thin appearance.
        • Excessive weight loss.
        • Feeling tired.
        • Insomnia.

        • Dizziness.
        • Discoloration.
        • Abnormal levels of different blood elements.
        • Blue coloring of the fingers.
        • Amenorrhea.
        • Hair loss.
        • constipation.
        • Change in heart rate.
        • Hypotension.
        • dehydration.
        • Osteoporosis.

        2. Behavioral symptoms

        This includes all the behaviors that the person adopts to lose weight. Among them are:

        • Strict restriction of food intake.
        • Excessive exercise.
        • Purgative behavior and use of laxatives, enemas or diuretics.

        3. Emotional symptoms

        Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an emotional symptomatology which includes the following aspects:

        • Experimentation of a intense fear of gaining weight.
        • Excessive concern for food.
        • Denial of the feeling of hunger.
        • Lying about the food you eat.
        • Irritability.
        • Social withdrawal or isolation.
        • Alexithymia or the inability to feel and express emotions.

        • Depressed mood.
        • Suicidal thoughts.
        • Lack of interest in sex.

        How can it be detected?

        Some of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa may be difficult to identify at first glance because the person themselves is aware of them and they do their best to hide them.

        However, there are a number of warning signs or behaviors that we can look at if we are not medical professionals and want to determine if anyone in our environment has this condition.

        These signals include:

        • Skipping meals constantly.
        • Make an excuse not to eat.
        • Careful selection of foods, generally low in calories.
        • weigh yourself continuously.
        • Continued complaints about his weight.
        • Avoid eating in public.
        • Change your dress codes, Using more and more layers.

        What are the causes?

        For the moment, it has not been possible to determine a specific or exact cause at the origin of anorexia nervosa, therefore the hypothesis of their existence. a number of biological and psychological factors and the environment that precipitates it.

        Experiencing traumatic personal or social events or those with a very high emotional load can play a key role in determining the onset of this eating disorder.

        Additionally, recent studies indicate the possibility that there are a number of genes associated with behaviors inherent in anorexia, such as compulsions, depression, perfectionism, and emotional sensitivity. However, so far, no gene or organic pathology directly related to anorexia has been found.

        Is there a treatment?

        Anorexia nervosa it is a very serious disorder which, if left untreated, can have fatal consequences for the person. So much so that statistics reveal that 10% of untreated severe anorexia cases result in the death of the patient.

        Due to the gravity of the situation, it is essential to make an effective diagnosis and start treatment the earliest would be best.

        A key element in the effectiveness of treatment is the involvement of the patient environment in the treatment. This intervention includes psychotherapy, in which psychological work is done on the emotional and cognitive aspects of the disorder, including distorted body perception.

        In the same way, it will be necessary to do it somatic and physical follow-up of the personAs well as developing a series of nutritional guidelines that help the person come to terms with food.

        Finally, in some cases, pharmacological treatment can be used with antidepressants or anxiolytics, which reduce the intensity of symptoms and facilitate psychological work.

        Unfortunately, anorexia nervosa is a disorder presenting a high risk of relapse, so family members and healthcare professionals will need to be attentive to the patient’s development.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Attia, E. (2010). Anorexia nervosa: current state I future directions. Annual review of medicine. 61 (1): pages 425 to 435.
        • Casper, RC (1998). Depression and eating disorders. Depression and anxiety. 8 (1): pages 96 to 104.
        • Hay P. (2013). A systematic review of the evidence for psychological treatments for eating disorders: 2005-2012. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 46 (5): pages 462 to 469.
        • Kaye W (April 2008). Neurobiology of anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Physiology and behavior. 94 (1): pages 121 to 135.
        • Surgenor, LJ; Maguire, S. (2013). Anorexia nervosa assessment: an overview of universal problems and contextual challenges. Journal of Eating Disorders. 1 (1): 29.

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