The symptoms of anorexia have received a lot of publicity over the last few decades and is generally perceived as a new-diseases reflecting late-20th/early-21st century living in the Western World.
Probably unheard of in an undeveloped country, yet the brutal physical effects are not dissimilar to starvation (without choice). And this marriage sees people being unsympathetic even dismissive of the devastation it wreaks in the sufferer and their loved ones.
According to the Merck Medical Manual:
Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by a relentless pursuit of thinness, a morbid fear of obesity, a refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight, resulting in body weight below the normal range and, in women, amenorrhea. Diagnosis is clinical. Most treatment is with some form of psychologic therapy. Olanzapine may help with weight gain. Anorexia nervosa occurs predominantly in girls and young women where onset is usually during adolescence.
Signs & symptoms of Anorexia
The symptoms of anorexia have a clinical criteria where denial, resistance to evaluation and treatment are among the predominating features, so the condition is usually brought to a doctor’s attention through other presenting long-suffering symptoms or family members.
Anorexia Nervosa can be mild and transient or severe and more developed, where sufferers are lean yet concerned about their body weight, a preoccupation with their restricted food intake and general anxiety about weight increase, even when emaciation increases.
Anorexia is a misnomer because a person’s appetite remains until they become cachectic.
Anorexics are considered to be preoccupied with food and their behaviours include:
- Study diets and calories
- Hoard, conceal, and waste food
- Collect recipes
- Prepare elaborate meals for other people
Their characteristics are thought to be:
- They lie about their food intake
- They conceal their behaviour, i.e. induced vomiting where binge-eating/purging occurs in 30-50% of patients
- Others simply restrict their food intake
Other strategies include excessive exercising in order to control weight and even patients who appear cachectic tend to remain highly active (including pursuing vigorous exercise programmes) and appear free of symptoms of nutritional deficiencies, with no unusual susceptibility to infections.
Reports of bloating, abdominal distress, and constipation are common, sex-drive decreases and depression is a common condition.
Other physical findings include bradycardia:
Body fat is usually greatly reduced and frequent vomiting can erode dental enamel, painless salivary gland enlargement, or inflamed esophagus.
Anorexia Nervosa diagnosis
Clinical characteristics include the following:
- Body weight ≤ 85% of expected weight (with a BMI of < 17.5 kg/m2)
- Fear of obesity
- Denial of illness (body image disturbance)
- Amenorrhea in females
Patients otherwise appear to be well, where the key to diagnosis stems from the core fear of fatness, which is not diminished by weight loss, no matter how dramatic.
Without treatment, mortality rates approach 10%; unrecognized mild disease probably rarely leads to death. But with treatment, half of all sufferers regain most or all of their weight loss and reverse any endocrine damage or other complications.
About a quarter of people have intermediate outcomes and may relapse, the remaining one quarter have a poor outcome, including relapses and persistent physical and mental complications.
If this is something you or a close friend or relative of yours is going through there are other approaches to help relieve the issues that created the condition in the first place, and it does require an all-round approach, coming at it from a variety of angles, in order to restore you back into a healthy person, living a life free of this downward spiral.
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Working with Jane
Changing unwanted patterns with all-things-food makes an enormous difference to everything else, especially how you feel about yourself.
When it comes to making better decisions, addressing what stops you is a very good place to start. Are you ready to take the helm?