Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa Summary
Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder and is a condition that goes well beyond out-of-control dieting. With anorexia, the drive to become thinner is actually secondary to concerns about control and/or fears relating to one's body. There are psychological and behavioral symptoms as well as physical symptoms of anorexia including: depression, social withdrawal, fatigue, food obsession, heart and gastrointestinal complications, kidney function, flaky skin, brittle nails, and tooth loss (this list is not exhaustive).
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Anorexia nervosa facts

  • Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder and, more importantly, a psychological disorder.
  • The cause of anorexia has not been definitively established, but self-esteem and body-image issues, societal pressures, and genetic factors likely each play a role.
  • Anorexia affects females far more often than males and is most common in adolescent females.
  • Anorexia tends to affect the middle and upper socioeconomic classes and Caucasians more often than less advantaged classes and ethnic minorities in the United States.
  • The disorder affects about 1% of adolescent girls and about 0.3% of males in the U.S.
  • People with anorexia tend to show compulsive behaviors, may become obsessed with food, and often show behaviors consistent with other addictions in their efforts to overly control their food intake and weight.
  • Men with anorexia are more likely to also have other psychological problems; affected women tend to be more perfectionistic and be more displeased with their bodies.
  • Children and adolescents with anorexia are at risk for a slowing of their growth and development.
  • The extreme dieting and weight loss of anorexia can lead to a potentially fatal degree of malnutrition.
  • Other possible complications of anorexia include heart-rhythm disturbances, digestive abnormalities, bone density loss, anemia, and hormonal and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Given the prevalence of denial of symptoms by individuals with anorexia, gathering information from loved ones of the anorexia sufferer is important in the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.
  • Most medications are much better at treating symptoms that are associated with anorexia than addressing the specific symptoms of anorexia themselves.
  • The treatment of anorexia must focus on more than just weight gain and often involves a combination of individual, group, and family psychotherapies in addition to nutritional counseling.
  • The Maudsley model of family therapy, in which the family actively participates in helping their loved one achieve a more healthy weight, is considered the most effective method of family therapy for treating anorexia in adolescents.
  • The prognosis of anorexia is variable, with some people making a full recovery. Others experience a fluctuating pattern of weight gain followed by relapse or a progressively deteriorating course over many years.
  • Helping people understand the unrealistic and undesirable nature of media representations of excessive thinness as beautiful is one way to help prevent anorexia.
  • As with many other illnesses with addictive symptoms, it takes a day-to-day effort to control the urge to relapse, and treatment may be needed on a long-term basis.
  • Increased understanding of the causes and treatments for anorexia remain the focus of ongoing research in the effort to improve the outcomes of individuals with this disorder.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/8/2012

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Drunkorexia, Manorexia, Diabulimia: New Eating Disorders?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

In recent weeks, I have read media reports that mentioned both "drunkorexia" and "manorexia." I have fielded questions about "diabulimia" from coworkers and friends. From the sound of these terms, it appears that there are a lot of new and recently discovered eating disorders. I certainly did not hear the word drunkorexia in medical school.

Actually, these new terms (which, by the way, are not official or standard medical terms) simply refer to subcategories of the well-known eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, both of which affect up to 1% of women and a lower percentage of men at some point in their lives.

The term drunkorexia has been coined to describe the condition of binge drinking combined with the typical self-imposed starvation seen with anorexia nervosa. It has also been used to refer to individuals who use purging (as seen with bulimia nervosa) or who have other eating disorders and try to reduce caloric intake to offset the calories consumed in alcohol. The typical individual described as a drunkorexic is a college-aged woman who is a binge drinker, starving all day in order to get drunk at night.

Manorexia simply refers to a male suffering from anorexia nervosa. Estimates suggest that males make up about 10% of those with anorexia nervosa. The disease is similar in males and females and is characterized by a refusal to maintain a normal body weight and distorted perspectives of appropriate body shape and size.


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