Anorexia Nervosa

Facts about Anorexia Nervosa

We found 21 facts about Anorexia Nervosa

Serious eating disorder

Anorexia is a mental disorder that affects an increasing number of young people. The problem of this disorder is very complex and is caused by many factors. Not insignificant is the social pressure resulting from the promotion of a certain appearance, which by standards is a prerequisite for a successful and fulfilling life. Recently, the public has recognized this problem and is beginning to promote the “normal” appearance of women. Often the drama of these young people, in many cases subjected to trauma in childhood, is a cry for help.

Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder.

The disorder is characterized by low weight, restricted eating, body image disturbances, fear of gaining weight, and an overwhelming desire to be thin. Attempts to lose weight can lead to starvation.

Anorexia is a Greek term meaning denial of appetite, or loss of appetite.

The adjective “nervosa” indicates the functional and unrestricted nature of the disorder.

Despite the literal translation of the term, the feeling of hunger is very often present in a person with this disorder.

Pathological control of this feeling, the need to eat, is a source of satisfaction for the patient.

People suffering from anorexia often perceive themselves as overweight, although in reality, they are underweight.

These individuals also often deny that they have a problem with low weight. They may weigh themselves frequently, eat small portions, and only certain foods. Some exercise excessively, force themselves to vomit, or use laxatives to lose weight and control their appearance.

The history of anorexia begins with descriptions of religious fasts dating from the Hellenistic era to the medieval period.

Many famous historical figures are believed to have suffered from the disease, including Catherine of Siena, and Mary, Queen of Scots.

The earliest medical descriptions of the disease are attributed to English physician Richard Morton in 1689.

However, it was not until the late 19th century that mental anorexia nervosa was widely accepted by medical professionals as a recognized condition.

In 1873, Sir William Gull, one of Queen Victoria’s physicians, published a landmark article that used the term “mental anorexia nervosa” and provided many detailed case descriptions and treatments.

In the second half of the 20th century, German-American psychoanalyst Hilde Bruch published her work “The Golden Cage: The Enigma of anorexia nervosa.” The book created a wider awareness of anorexia among laypeople.

A major event triggering the discussion of the disorder was the death of popular singer Karen Carpenter in 1983. It caused the eating disorder to become a major media topic. The singer’s brother, her singing partner, set up a fund for research on mental anorexia nervosa. Other celebrities, including Jane Fonda and Lynn Redgrave, also began to share their experiences with the disorder.

Anorexia is considered a disease of psychological origin.

The sufferer is usually found to have malnutrition of various degrees, with secondary hormonal and metabolic changes and dysfunction.

There are two main types of anorexia.
  • The restrictive type, in which starvation predominates
  • Gluttonous-excessive type, in which the patient overeats uncontrollably, induces vomiting, uses laxatives
Statistical studies indicate that globally, about 2 million people suffer from anorexia.

The disorder occurs 6 to 12 times more often in women than in men. It is far more common in the Caucasian race, especially during adolescence. It is also more common in homosexuals and bisexuals.

One can speak of anorexia when certain symptoms appear in a person’s behavior.

These include:

  • BMI is equal to or less than 17.5
  • The presence of a strong fear of getting fat or obese, even if underweight
  • Weight within the normal range for one’s height, age becomes irrelevant
  • Own body weight, dimensions, and figure are not properly assessed
  • Not paying attention to sudden weight loss and its consequences

People with this condition often isolate themselves at mealtimes and engage in intense sports.

According to the International Classification of Diseases ICD-10, there are several diagnostic criteria for anorexia.
  • Weight loss, leading to body weight at least 15 percent below normal for a given age and height
  • Avoidance by the sufferer of fattening food, provoking vomiting, using laxatives, undergoing exhaustive exercise, using appetite suppressants or diuretics-setting one’s body weight standard
  • Perceiving oneself as an obese person and fear of getting fat-fear of obesity becomes an intrusive overriding thought
  • Endocrine disorders, which in women manifest themselves in the disappearance of menstruation, and in men in the loss of sexual interest and potency. Finding elevated levels of growth hormone changes in thyroid metabolism and impaired insulin secretion
The exact cause of anorexia is not yet known.

It is thought to consist of a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

One of the psychological characteristics of a potential anorexic is perfectionism in various areas of life and excessive focus on one’s body.

Prospective anorexics are characterized by high intelligence and are often primes at school. Their actions are often accompanied by a fear of failure. They have low self-esteem, are hypersensitive, emotionally tense, fearful, distrustful of others, and suspicious. They are characterized by a negative view of themselves, hypersensitivity to criticism, and a sense of hopelessness.

Some of these people may have obsessive-compulsive personality traits that make it easy for them to give up eating, despite the hunger they feel, or to stick very closely to a restrictive diet. They often suppress the feelings of anxiety that accompany them by not eating.

It is not yet known exactly which genes are responsible for the onset of mental anorexia nervosa.

However, it has been found that the disorder is highly heritable. Studies of twins have shown that the heritability rate ranges from 28 to 58 percent. First-degree relatives of people with anorexia have about 12 times the risk of developing the disease.

A 2019 study found a genetic link to mental disorders such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, and depression.

Environmental factors have a large impact on the onset of anorexia.

The widespread cult of beauty and a slim figure - the promotion of skinny models, excessive physical activity, the belief that success and fulfillment in life can only be achieved by wearing clothes of the smallest size - all these influence the consciousness of young people, especially girls. Therefore, they follow restrictive diets, exercise excessively, and ingest laxatives to meet these demands.

Trauma is also a risk factor for anorexia-there is a link between traumatic events and an eating disorder diagnosis.

Approximately 72 percent of people with anorexia report a traumatic event before the onset of eating disorder symptoms (the highest percentage reporting bulimia).

One such traumatic event is childhood sexual abuse. Others include physical and emotional abuse. Individuals who experience repeated trauma, as well as those who experience trauma perpetrated by a caregiver or loved one, have increased the severity of anorexia symptoms and a higher incidence of co-occurring psychiatric diagnoses. Traumatic events can lead to intrusive and obsessive thoughts, and a symptom of anorexia is an increase in obsessive thoughts related to food. People who are out of control of their bodies due to trauma may use food as a means of control, as the choice to eat is an expression of control. By exercising control over eating, the patient can decide when and how much to eat. Limiting the amount of food can also be a way of communicating the pain the traumatized person is experiencing.

Anorexia is the most common among young people and teenagers.

It is most common in girls and young women, although recently the disorder has been increasingly observed in young boys and men as well.

The disorder can occur in other age groups, although it is rare in people over 40.

The disease causes several symptoms from the body’s functioning.
  • Loss of body fat and muscle, resulting in emaciation and cachexia
  • Lowering of body temperature below 36 degrees Celsius
  • Reduction in blood pressure below 120/70 mm Hg
  • Bruising of the distal parts of the limbs and edema
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • A feeling of fullness in the abdomen combined with bloating and constipation
  • Disappearance of menstruation
  • Change in the size of the uterus and ovaries
  • The appearance of a characteristic fuzz on the skin all over the body, known as lanugo
  • Hair loss
  • Osteopenia with osteoporosis
  • Inflammation of the stomach and intestines
  • Dehydration
  • Gingivitis, caries
  • Intolerance to cold, fatigue, insomnia, yellow skin
Treatment of anorexia nervosa includes three main areas.
  • Restoring the sufferer to a healthy weight
  • Treating the mental disorders associated with the illness
  • Reducing or eliminating the behaviors or thoughts that originally led to the eating disorder
Anorexia has a high mortality rate.

It has the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders. Half of women with the disorder make a full recovery; 20-30 percent may make a partial recovery. About 20 percent of patients develop mental anorexia as a chronic disorder.

If anorexia is left untreated, serious complications can arise: heart disease and kidney failure, which eventually lead to death.

The rate of relapse after treatment ranges from 9 to 52 percent, with many studies reporting a relapse rate of at least 25 percent.

Relapse occurs in about one-third of people in the hospital and is greatest in the first six to 18 months after discharge from the facility.

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