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Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in humans. It is characterized by people who psychologically want to loose weight and end up starving themselves and become emaciated and dangerously loose weight. The individuals with anorexia nervosa refuse to sustain normal body weight and have intense fear of gaining weight even if they are underweight. They also have a distorted view of their body and are in self denial on their low weight. Anorexia comes in two types which are; restrictive and purging types. In restrictive there is drastic dieting and fasting and excessive exercises. In purging the individuals feed on calories then remove them through vomiting, laxatives or diuretics. Anorexia causes a weight loss of at approximately 15% of the expected body weight.
Causes of anorexia
According to Bernstein, 2008 anorexia nervosa is complex and is caused by biological, psychological, and family or social factors. Many at times are when physicians try to describe it as a mental disorder but there is an increased morbidity and mortality in anorexia nervosa. The best way to describe the causes is through the use of predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors.
Biologically anorexia nervosa may be genetic and hence run in families. There is a 10 to 20 probability of a female to be anorexic if one of her parents has it. The chemistry of the brain also plays a role in anorexia. High levels of cortisol are linked to anorexia. Cortisol causes stress, and reduces levels of serotonin and norepinephrine which are responsible for well being feelings in an individual (Hall, & Ostroffm, 1998 p.24). Psychologically, patients of anorexia are perfectionists and overachievers. They focus on pleasing others at the expense of their body. This leads to feelings of helplessness, inadequacy and worthlessness.
According to family and social pressures, cultures and traditions pressures people to be thin. Socially people now consider thinness as fashion and design. Some professions such as modeling, ballets and gymnasts require slenderness. Some parents also highly emphasize on the looks to the teenagers. Others youths are fond of criticizing their bodies and appearance, and also the stresses of life at puberty, this leads to dieting and starving due to such pressures this cause anorexia nervosa (Emmett, 1985 p.57).
Effects of anorexia
Although the patient may get the desired body shape, weight, or image; the effects of the disorder will cause adverse medical conditions on the body. Anorexia has adverse physical effects. The body is deficient of nutrients and hence goes to starvation. Starvation slows down body activities so as to conserve energy and so as to maintain essential nutrients this means that he body consumes itself. When starvation intensifies more body fats are consumed leading to more medical complications (Bruch, 2001 p.34). This affects the whole body where the cardiovascular, endocline, renal, reproductive, neurologic, orofacial, dematological, and hematogical systems are affected.
There are several signs and effects of anorexia nervosa. The first physical signs and effects include; loss of menstrual periods for ladies, lack of energy and general weakness, feeling cold at all times, skin turns yellowish and becomes dry, the patient experiences constipation and abdominal pains, the patient is also restless and has insomnia, feelings of dizziness, fainting and headaches, and growth of fine hair all over he body and face.
Anorexia affects each body part differently, the brain and nerves cannot think and react rightly, and one has the fear of gaining weight, periods of sadness, mood swings, and irritation, forgetting things due to memory loss, fainting, and a change in brain chemistry. The hair gets thin and becomes brittle. The heart experiences low blood pressure, a slow heart rate, fluttering of the heart or palpitations and at extreme cases there is heart failure.
The body becomes anemic and contains other blood related problems. The muscles become weak and feeble (Bruch, 2001 p.67). The joints become swollen and weak; the limbs have fractures and osteoporosis. The kidneys experience kidney stones and at extreme cases there is kidney failure. The fluids in the body have low potassium, magnesium, sodium, and other essential and non essential elements. The intestines experience constipation and bloating due to the lack of food and minerals.
The hormones once affected have several effects such as; stopping the flow of periods in ladies, leads to bone loss, and post partum depression. If the lady patient is pregnant then there may be cases of miscarriage, or complications during birth (Hall, & Ostroffm, 1998 p.38).
If disorder continues without medical attention the patients will get adverse effects. Some of these effects include; tooth decay, gum damage, damage of the esophagus, and damage of the larynx, loss of hair, infertility, stunned growth, osteoporosis, heart complications, and death.
Signs and symptoms
Diagnosis of anorexia nervosa is difficult since the patient often hides it. It involves denial of the occurrence and secrecy on the part of the patient. The signs and symptoms include; Serious weight loss leading to depression, the patient is irritable, and becomes upset easily and anti social, there is disrupted sleep hence leading to fatigue, reduced concentration and attention, obsessions with thoughts of food and can have obsessive compulsive disorders, anxiety, and mood swings (Bruch, 2001 p.43). The patient can also experience dizziness or faint. The patient may also loose interest in his/her hobbies or what he was previously interested in. There is also presence of fine downy hair on the face, back, arms, and legs. Nails become brittle and the teeth and gums may be weak.
Who is affected by anorexia?
In the United States the prevalence is at 1%and occurs mainly at the age of 14-18 years. It occurs mostly in the industrialized areas where food is plenty but there is emphasis of slenderness due to the lifestyle. It is common in females and occurs at a ratio of 10:1 female to male. Those occurring in male’s; gay and bisexual males have a higher risk of having the disorder than heterosexual males (Bernstein, 2008 para.8). It is also common white adolescents at a prevalence of 95% and the socioeconomic class at 75%. Internationally it is predominant in females and frequent at the adolescent stages of life.
Treatment and recovery
Patients of anorexia are lucky that health can be regained. Anorexia involves physical and psychological signs hence an integrated process is required. The treatment involves three components which are; restoring the patients’ healthy weight, treatment of the psychological issues related to anorexia, and reduction or elimination of ideas that led to anorexia (Lucas, 2004 p.76). Official diagnosis is however necessary in order to be sure that the treatment administered is correct.
Medical treatment; involves stabilizing any serious health matter or sign in the patient. The patient will have to be hospitalized so that starvation may be addressed. Thoughts of suicide should be closely monitored since many patients can commit suicide. Hospitalization will be essential so that weight is regained through administration of a balanced diet and monitoring of any other diet requirements to enhance a speedy recovery. These people should not be forced to have a weight gain. Nutritional therapy; this includes counseling so that the patient get the right and correct amounts of nutrients that the body requires. Nutritionist teaches and counsels the patient on healthy eating, proper nutrition, and balanced meals. He is responsible for the patient’s meal plans that give the patient enough calories to attain and maintain a normal, healthy weight.
Counseling and therapy; this helps in eliminating any negative thoughts and feelings of weight and self esteem (Rothery & Garden, 1988). The thoughts ought to be changed to positive, healthy, and less distorted attitudes about themselves. This will also involve teaching the patient how to deal with difficult emotions, relationships, and stress so as to be productive instead of being destructive.
There are three types of therapy for treatment of anorexia nervosa. Cognitive therapy; deals with the critical and unhealthy thoughts that cause the disorder. It focuses on self awareness, challenging distorted beliefs, and improving self esteem and self control. Behavior therapy; teaches the patient healthy eating behaviors by rewarding, reinforcing, or self monitoring and goal setting (Lucas, 2004 p.87). It also helps the patient to know the causes of anorexia and deal with them tactfully using relaxing techniques and coping strategy.
Family therapy; deals with family dynamics which contribute to this disorder or any effect that might affect the patient while recovering. Group therapy; allows patients to talk to each other and help them to fit back to society through sharing their experiences.
Anorexia nervosa can be also described as a psychological disorder since it is mainly caused by the effects of mind. It can also be described as a modern day disorder since most of causes are due to change in lifestyle and the pressures of modern day life. The patient should be well taken care of to avoid the disorder leading to death. Early diagnosis is necessary to avoid the disorder moving to the chronic stages.