Anorexia, also commonly referred to as anorexia nervosa, is a serious life-threatening eating disorder where people have the perception that they are overweight when in fact they are extremely underweight. It is estimated that up to four percent of women have suffered from anorexia in their lifetime. If left untreated, anorexia can cause death. In fact, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (ANAD) estimates that 20 percent of people that suffer from anorexia will die prematurely from complications from this serious mental illness.
Signs of Anorexia
Despite being severely underweight, people that suffer from still pursue loosing more weight and are unwilling to maintain a healthy weight. In order to keep losing weight, some sufferers may engage in extreme dieting, binge eating followed by purging, and excessive exercise. Others may abuse or misuse laxatives, enemas or diuretic medications.
Treatment for Anorexia
There are three main goals in the treatment of anorexia:
• Restore normal, healthy weight
• Work on treating the underlying psychological issues behind why the sufferer became anorexic in the first place
• Work on reducing or eliminating the behaviors or negative thought patterns that led to the anorexia so that these behaviors and thoughts do not start over
The treatment pathway for anorexia typically contains one or more of the following:
• Immediate Medical Care: Some people develop such severe anorexia, they are initially hospitalized to treat medical issues caused by extreme malnutrition. Hospitalization also allows patients to be monitored to ensure they are eating enough daily calories.
• Psychotherapy and Nutrition Counseling: This can be on a one-on-one basis with a psychologist, in a group setting with other anorexia suffers, or with family members.
• Medication: The use of medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilizers may be effective in treating anorexia.
• Ongoing Monitoring: Periodic medical check-ups ensure that weight is maintained. It is also an opportunity to monitor any health-related complications that may have occurred due to anorexia.
Source: National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (ANAD)and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)