Although eventual outcomes of anorexia and starvation are very similar, it is important to rule out one or the other. Anorexia is primarily psychological and not simply due to appetite loss whereas starvation may be due to physical, environmental or other factors. Although here we will discuss only anorexia, several of the treatments will also help overcome the effects of starvation.
is a serious eating disorder in which people deliberately starve themselves to lose weight. No matter how thin they become, they still believe they are overweight.
Incidence; Causes and Development
More than 90% of people with anorexia
are females, though a growing number of males now have the disorder. It usually begins between the ages of 13 and 18.Anorexia
is often triggered by a severe emotional shock. Common causes are:
- An overwhelming sense of being out of control, and attempting to take control of one's life by regulating food intake
- Unrealistic fear of developing an adult body
- Severe trauma or emotional shock during puberty or pre-puberty
- Anorexia is known to run in families
- Abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain
- Frequent dieters stand an 8-times greater chance of anorexia
- Society's unrealistic emphasis on thinness places certain individuals such as cheerleaders, dancers, runners, models, jockeys, wrestlers, and actresses and actors at higher risk for anorexia.
Signs and Symptoms
Common symptoms include extreme weight loss due to self-imposed starvation; an obsession with food, such as collecting recipes; hoarding food; an unwillingness to eat in public; an irrational fear of gaining weight.
Diagnosis and Tests
A health care provider will generally ask questions about eating habits - how much and what is being eaten - and exercise patterns. He or she will do blood and other diagnostic tests to eliminate the possibility that weight loss is caused by medical problems. Referral to a therapist or psychiatrist who understands eating disorders is then possible.
Treatment and Prevention
It is best to get treatment as soon as the symptoms appear, from a psychiatrist specially trained both in treating the disorder and in nutritional counseling. You may receive cognitive-behavioral, group, relaxation, or psychodynamic therapy. Your health care provider will help you "relearn" how to eat correctly. In severe cases, hospitalization may be needed. Long-term monitoring and support is necessary.
Without proper treatment, the disorder can be fatal.