If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, you may be feeling overwhelmed, angry or even resistant. Anorexia is a serious disease that affects millions, but by identifying the problem and adhering to prescribed treatments, it’s a condition that can be overcome. Understanding anorexia nervosa is the first step toward combating this dangerous disease.
What is Anorexia Nervosa?
The definition of anorexia nervosa is a physical and mental disorder characterized by self-starvation, unrealistic fear of weight gain and a distorted self image. It’s usually a result of emotional disorders that cause you to become obsessive about controlling your body. This includes extreme dieting and unhealthy levels of exercise. It occurs primarily in young women, but it can appear in anyone.
If you have been diagnosed with anorexia, physical symptoms you may be experiencing include difficulty sleeping, dizziness, fainting, irregular heartbeat, irregular menstruation and extreme sensitivity to cold. Other common systems include constipation, dehydration, dry skin, fatigue and low blood pressure.
Behavioral symptoms you may experience include apathy, depression, irritability, lowered libido, compulsive exercise and refusing to eat or denying hunger.
What Treatments are Available?
The first step in treating Anorexia Nervosa is to return to a healthy weight level. This is determined by a body mass index (BMI) relevant to your height and weight.
No prescription medications have been made to treat anorexia specifically, but your doctor may prescribe medication to combat the potential underlying problems of depression or anxiety.
The most effective way of treating anorexia is through intense psychotherapy (Mayo Clinic, 2011).
Types of Therapy for Treating Anorexia
Therapy to treat anorexia may include individual, family or group therapy.
Individual therapy can help you work through the emotional and behavioral aspects of anorexia through working one-on-one with a professional mental health specialist.
Family therapy is advantageous when anorexia causes rifts within the family unit. Problems and concerns can be discussed in a safe environment and mediated by a therapist. Family therapy is important in cases where patients may be resistant to treatment, as family and friends will need to take an active role in ensuring patient safety and well-being.
Group therapy is where you can talk with other people who are afflicted by anorexia. You can share experiences and help each other to make progress. Group therapy sessions should always be conducted by a mental health professional.
The impact of anorexia on you, your family and your friends can be severe. Fortunately, anorexia support groups are available to help you and your loved ones cope.