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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What is Anorexia ?


Many people ask, what is anorexia ?  Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by extreme weight loss and lack of eating.  Anorexics may also exercise obsessively.  People with anorexia may also have bulimia, a disorder in which they make themselves vomit after eating in order to avoid gaining weight.  Anorexia affects many more women than men.  It is a very serious condition and can result in death if it is not treated properly.

Treating anorexia nervosa is difficult because it is such a complex disorder.  It is a mental illness, but also involves serious medical complications, including :

  • Hypotension (low blood pressure).
  • Brachycardia (a slow heartbeat).
  • Irregular heartbeats.
  • A weakened heart muscle.
  • Risk of heart failure.
  • Low levels of potassium, magnesium, and sodium in the body.
  • Anemia.
  • Dehydration.
  • Hormonal imbalances, leading to lack of menstrual period in women.
  • Weak muscles and fatigue.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Kidney and liver disorders.
  • Gastro-intestinal problems, such as constipation, stomach pain, and ulcers.
  • Osteoporosis (loss of bones mass, causing brittle bones that break easily).

What Is Anorexia Caused By ?

Anorexics often have a distorted body image and believe they are fat when in truth they are severely underweight.  Some think anorexia is caused in part by our society, which places a strong value on being thin.  The media bombards us with images of thin models and tells us thin is beautiful.  Weight loss products are heavily marketed.  Even young girls often believe they need to loose weight and go on diets.

When asked what is anorexia caused by, however, experts can name a number of other possible causes.  People with anorexia often feel out of control of things in their lives.  Controlling their food intake gives them a feeling of control.

Still other experts, when asked what is anorexia caused by, point to a connection between anorexia and sexual abuse.  Many women who were sexually abused as children develop eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa as adults.  This doesn’t happen in all cases, but there does seem to be a connection.
As you can see, experts do not always agree about the cause of anorexia.  The cause may vary from individual to individual, and in some cases may never be known.

Now that we’ve talked about what is anorexia, let’s talk about how it’s treated.

Treating Anorexia Nervosa

Treating anorexia nervosa begins with treating the worst of the physical problems.  Many anorexics are near death before they seek treatment or are forced into treatment.  (Since many anorexics do not recognize the seriousness of their condition, family members may seek court orders to force them into treatment.)  Their medical condition must be stabilized before psychological treatment can begin.

Medical treatment generally begins with hospitalization.  Patients may need to be tube fed for a timeuntil they begin to eat enough food on their own.  Their food intake will be monitored closely.

Once a patient is medically stable, treating anorexia nervosa involves educating them about what is anorexia and about proper nutrition.  It also involves individual and group psychotherapy to help resolve the issues that led to the development of the disorder.  The exact treatment may depend on what is anorexia caused by in each individual case.  However, for many men and women with anorexia, the exact cause may never be known.  The condition can still be treated in the same way, however; the patient is medically stabilized, provided with education about their condition and given psychotherapy.

Treating anorexia nervosa is a long process.  Continued support is required so that symptoms do not reappear after the person leaves the hospital.

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