“Anorexia is not just a malady of the body but a disease of the mind” (Crilly n. d.).Many people worry about their weight but people with anorexia would go to any length to lose the weight. It is because they dread putting on any weight at all. Anorexia nervosa is a disorder that manifests in people with an exaggerated fear of gaining weight. These people usually become very thin because they limit the amount of food they consume to a very little quantity being not adequate to cater to the body’s needs. It can be said that it is dieting that has gotten out of control. People suffering from this disorder tend to think about dieting, food, and gaining weight a lot. It is more common among females and mainly starts at the adolescent age. Early treatment has proven to be very effective. However, the failure to treat may lead to such serious health issues as osteoporosis, heart problems, and kidney damage. They are the major causes of death in these patients. Eating disorders are complicated since there is no specific cause known. However, they are believed to be caused by a mix of personality traits, social factors, and family history. The research about this disorder is vital especially because people suffering from it deny vehemently their problem. Anorexia nervosa has a higher mortality rate compared to other mental illnesses (Birmingham and Treasure 1).
Anorexia nervosa mainly occurs in people who have their family members suffering from the same disorder or other disorders of eating. In addition, it is more in people who are never happy and involved in jobs that stress their body size. People faced with stressful life events, which include divorce or losses of a family member, are also prone to this mental disorder. There is a number of ways to find out whether a person is suffering from anorexia. The weight of these people is usually lower than that of a healthy individual of the same age and sex. They fear gaining weight. They do not want to maintain a healthy weight. Even though they look thin to other people they have a firm belief in being overweight. For the above reasons, they focus much of their energy on losing weight. They may become obsessed with dieting, restricting the amount of food they eat and exercising a lot even when their health status may not allow it. Some even go to the extent of using and diuretics to avoid weight gain.
The symptoms and signs of anorexia are myriad. In women, amenorrhea results from excessive weight loss occur. They exhibit hypothermia, hypotension, and tachycardia. Many patients tend to be secretive and withdrawn. They suffer from halitosis due to vomiting and ketosis induced by starvation. Rapid mood swings and generalized body fatigue could also be present. Most of the symptoms are attributed to starvation. The diagram below shows the adverse effects of the disorder on various organ systems.
A diagnosis of anorexia nervosa should be made by a qualified medical practitioner. There are medical conditions that mimic the disease. These causes should be ruled out before the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa is arrived at. These causes include bacterial or viral infections, neurodegenerative diseases, hormonal imbalance as well as brain tumors. The American Psychiatric Association classifies anorexia nervosa as an Axis 1 in DSM-V. The disorder has two subtypes: a restricting type where an individual fasts and uses diets for weight loss. The purging type is where the person uses binge eating to lose weight. The differential diagnoses for the disorder include depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, bulimia nervosa, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, a patient suffering from an eating disorder may portray behavior that moves from one diagnosis to another (Sigel 159-170). The table below shows the differences between healthy dieting and what is seen in anorexia.
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No method has been devised to prevent anorexia. However, early treatment has been proven to prevent the progression of the disorder. It is, therefore, important for people to understand the early signs as explained above to prevent the appearance of complications. Family members should also be aware of early symptoms to take care of those who may be caught up in a denial of their problems. It is important for children to be taught how to take care of their bodies. A healthy view of themselves and others should also be encouraged. Comments linking thin to being healthy ought to be avoided in the presence of kids. Since people with anorexia tend to exercise a lot, they need to come up with a good approach to exercise and healthy eating (Emmet 2013).
Anorexia nervosa is treated after identifying the underlying cause. There are no drugs to cure it. However, there have been claims that Olanzapine treats some aspects of anorexia. Antidepressants may be administered if the patient is depressed, has an anxiety disorder, or if such a person has obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can be quite dangerous for one to have anorexia if any medication is taken. Blood tests can be done to determine the levels of medicine in the patient on medication where anorexia is suspected. These patients should be fed on a diet being rich in essential fatty acids to avoid neurological symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to work especially in adolescents. It is meant to correct distorted beliefs about eating and weight gain (Walsh, Wheat, and Freund 90).
Patients need to be taken good care of even when they are at home for a full recovery to be realized. They should be taught some new eating behavior, emotional self-care, and how to build trust in people who intend to help them. The emotional support by family members should form an integral part of the home treatment. If the patient is under stress, some efforts should be made to relieve it in order to improve the quality of life. All family members should be taught how to take care of the person who has anorexia (Grange and Le 84-95).
A failure to eat enough food being characteristic of the disease leads to a number of complications. The most notorious ones are acute kidney failure, liver damage, and heart failure. Osteoporosis that entails the loss of bone density is also a complication especially if it occurs in the adolescent age. It is a stage when people are expected to gain bone mass. The loss of heart muscles due to starvation is a cause of heart failure in anorexia. It has been established that the heart muscle is lost at a higher rate than the skeletal one. The heart becomes unable to sustain the body’s requirement for oxygen leading to heart failure. Chronic malnutrition leads to growth retardation, which is temporary and can be reversed by a healthy food intake. Liver failure is due to steatosis caused by fatty infiltration. Neurological symptoms such as seizures and tremors occur due to hypoglycemia.
The prognosis of anorexia is favorable in a long term for most patients. Contrary to the belief of many people, it is not a chronic disease since the majority of patients get better after durations of approximately 1.7 years. This has been found out after a National Comorbidity Replication Survey carried out in the United States. If proper home-based treatment is given the duration for recovery is also shortened. Anorexia patients should not be incarcerated since it denies a patient their basic rights and pushes away from a recovery path. Relapse mainly occurs within one year after the healthy weight has been regained. It can be prevented through pharmacological treatment as well as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been used for this role.
Surely, anorexia is not just a disease of the body but of the mind. By doing this they go to any lengths to restrict any food intake. They increase the rate at which the little food they eat is utilized. The problems they bring on themselves are myriad and if not dealt with they prove to be fatal. It is not out of the free will that they do this. They deserve to be helped out of their situation. In conclusion, anorexia is a common disorder that everyone should learn about.