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Anorexia Nervosa and its Treatment

Anorexia cases represent around 10% of Eating Disorders.

Anorexia is a conundrum, its name means “appetite loss of nervous origins”. We must distinguish it as a condition from the loss of appetite that comes from overeating, from illness, from other emotional reasons such as fear and depression, and from damage to certain areas of the brain which we know are associated with eating.

What is special about anorexia is that it is SPECIFICALLY associated with other feelings and behaviours related to the fear of “fatness”.

These feelings include poor body image, phobic feelings about food in relation to its ability to create fatness, and an intense fear of being a normal body weight. Anorexic behaviours are designed either to minimise calories ingested, or to expend calories which are believed to have been ingested, by exercising or by other strategies such as avoiding eating situations or purging.

Physical Effects Of Anorexia

The physical effects of anorexia are mostly connected with the effects of starvation on the body.

There is lowered resistance to illness, physical weakness and sensitivity to heat and cold.

Anorexics bruise easily and appear to need less sleep than normal eaters. As body weight falls to low levels the anorexic may be covered with a fine downy hair and in cases of prolonged starvation there is impoverished circulation leading to discoloured rough skin and possible ulceration of legs and feet.

Anorexics experience digestive problems as a result of starvation which compound their anxieties about eating. Digestion slows up so that there are real feelings of being bloated after eating even small amounts, and constipation which make the abdomen feel dense and large. Poor digestion may lead to food intolerance creating swelling of the stomach, face or ankles.

Bone loss as a result of under nourishment can be extreme, and can occur in the early stages of anorexia. There may be shrinkage of the reproductive organs in men and women, and destruction of areas of the brain which are responsible for endocrine production

The human body is a resilient instrument and its powers of recovery even after prolonged periods of starving are remarkable, if specific measures are taken to promote a healthy lifestyle and to remedy bone loss.  Individuals suffering from this condition should seek anorexia help as soon as they can.

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