What is anorexia nervosa?


Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by low body weight that is considered unhealthy for their age and height.

Know the basics

What is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by low body weight that is considered unhealthy for their age and height. People who are suffering from this emotional disorder have an intense fear of weight gain, even when they are underweight, and have a distorted perception of body weight. They may diet or exercise excessively or use other ways (eg. laxatives, induced-vomiting) to lose weight.

How common is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is more common in females than males. Anorexia often begins during the pre-teen or teen years or young adulthood. Anorexia nervosa can cause extremely low body weight that can be life threatening if left untreated. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of anorexia nervosa?

The common symptoms of anorexia nervosa are …

  • An intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even when underweight.
  • Self-induced vomiting;
  • Taking diuretics to urinate or laxatives to have a bowel movement;
  • Taking diet pills;
  • Not eating or eating very little;
  • Exercising a lot, even in bad weather or when hurt or tired;
  • Weighing food and counting calories.

Anorexia can also cause psychological effects that may make a person not act like themselves. They may talk about weight and food all the time, not eat in front of others, be moody or sad, or not want to go out with friends. People with anorexia may also have other psychiatric and physical illnesses, including:

  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Dry mouth;
  • Issues with the heart and/or brain;
  • Extreme sensitivity to cold.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Anorexia can be life threatening when the body weight is low. Most people with anorexia will resist treatment because they do not think they have a problem. It is always best to be supportive of them and convince them they have a problem and they need medical attention.

Know the causes

What causes anorexia nervosa?

The exact causes of anorexia nervosa are not known. Many factors may be involved such as depression and other mental illness. Genes and hormones may play a role. Social media may also influence a person’s perception of beauty by promoting very thin body types.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for anorexia nervosa?

There are many risk factors for anorexia nervosa, such as:

  • Family history. If you have a mother or sister with anorexia, you are more likely to develop the disorder.
  • Low self-esteem. Someone with anorexia may not like herself or himself. They may hate the way she or he looks, or feel hopeless. She or he often sets hard-to-reach goals for her or himself and tries to be perfect in every way.
  • Life changes or stressful events. Traumatic events (like rape) as well as stressful events (like starting a new job); can lead to the onset of anorexia.

Social Media influence. Images on TV, the Internet and in printed media promote a thin body type. These images associate being thin to being successful and beautiful. This can be another risk factor.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is anorexia nervosa diagnosed?

The doctor makes a diagnosis from the medical history (especially weight and diet), physical examination, and laboratory tests to rule out other conditions. No specific tests exist for anorexia. Extreme weight loss without physical illness, especially in a young woman, is usually an important sign.

The doctor may ask:

·        How long have you been worried about your weight?

·        Do you exercise regularly?

  • Are you using any method to lose weight?
  • Have you ever vomited from feeling too full?
  • Have anyone told you that you are too thin?

·        Do you often think about food?

  • Have you ever have to hide food to save for later?

·        Is there anyone in your family with eating disorder?

If anorexia is suspected, the doctor may order some additional tests. These tests may include:

  • Albumin;
  • Bone density test to check for thin bones (osteoporosis);
  • CBC;
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG);
  • Electrolytes;
  • Kidney function tests;
  • Liver function tests;
  • Total protein;
  • Thyroid function tests;
  • Urinalysis.

How is anorexia nervosa treated?

The biggest challenge in treating anorexia nervosa is helping the person recognize that they have an illness. Most people with anorexia deny that they have an eating disorder. People often enter treatment only when their condition is serious. Treatment for anorexia may include:

  • Talk therapy is used for young patients or those who have anorexia for a short time to encourage them to get back on a healthy diet.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (a type of talk therapy);
  • Group therapy;
  • Family therapy.
  • Medicines such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers may help some anorexic patients when given as part of a complete treatment program. These medicines can help treat depression or anxiety. Although medicines may help, none has been proven to decrease the desire to lose weight.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage anorexia nervosa?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with anorexia nervosa:

  • Reduce stress;
  • Admit that you have anorexia;
  • Eat the diet prescribed by your doctor or nutritionist;
  • Attend counseling sessions;
  • Take medicines as directed;
  • Buy clothes that fit, not clothes that you have to lose weight to fit.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia


Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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