Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder and is more commonly known as Anorexia. It is defined as an irrational fear of gaining weight which leads to a form of food restriction. Often an individual develops an overabundance of Anxiety when eating or thinking about food.

A significant problem is that it doesn’t feel irrational to the person going through it. Often, this creates a distorted self-perception of one’s own body and leads to excessive weight loss and sometimes excessive means to reach this goal.

Typically this condition begins in early adolescence or early adulthood. There are many complicated medical problems or implications that stem from this condition.

The obsession begins with having a thin figure. Other behaviors include mirror-gazing, repetitive weighing, measuring, body checking, and others.

A fear of gaining weight sets in that can be overwhelming. This condition is more often seen in females than males but can be seen in both. Typically seen in ages 13-17 but can begin at any age.

Part of treatment helps the patient understand that self-perception is often distorted or confused.

Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder

–  Excessive Weight loss
–  Decreased appetite
–  Excessive Dieting
–  Starvation
–  Malnutrition
–  Hypokalaemia – drop in potassium in the blood
–  Amenorrhea  –  absences of three consecutive menstrual cycles
–  Obsession with fat and calories
–  Purging  (vomiting, laxatives, diet pills, water pills, and more)
–  Solitude
–  Misconception of being overweight
–  Bad breath
–  Hair loss
–  Fatigue
–  Excessive sleeping or not enough
–  Depression or sadness

Medical Complications Related to Anorexia Nervosa

1.)  Growth problems
2.)  Delay of Puberty
3.)  Decreased Bone Mass
4.)  Hepatic Steatosis – (Fatty Liver)
5.)  Malnutrition
6.)  Others

Potential Causes or Risks of an Eating Disorder:

1.)  Genetic

–  Additional studies are being done to look at emotional and physical changes that occur due to genetics
–  Studies looking at other medical issues that lead people into developing an obsession.
–  Genetic Mutations, Brain chemicals, Proteins, hormones, and other areas of the body are being studied to see their relation with Anorexia.

2.)  Environmental

–  Sociocultural studies are being done to compare Countries and their beliefs and expectations to identify if Environmental factors.
–  Such things evaluated are gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
–  Models and Dancers have additional social pressures.
–  Anorexia tends to be seen in cultures where obesity is prevalent.

Diagnosis and Evaluation

The Diagnosis of an Eating Disorder should always be made by a competent medical professional. This can ensure that other medical conditions or problems are not overlooked. This condition is complex and demanding of proper medical treatment.

There are many other serious medical issues that can result in weight loss. Anorexia, in those cases, should be made after other medical issues are ruled out.

1.)  Weight loss associated with mental illness
2.)  Mental Health Evaluation should be done.
2.)  Blood work is required.  (CBC, Thyroid, Liver functioning, and many other things)
3.)  Urinalysis
4.)  EKG
5.)  Gastrointestinal evaluation

Anorexia Nervosa is classified as an Axis I disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-IV). It is classified as an eating disorder.

Treatment Options for Anorexia and other Eating Disorders

Addresses several areas

1.)  Improve Health

–  This deals with several issues including weight gain, proper nutrition, dietary improvements including vitamins.

2.)  Treating mental health disorders associated with this condition.

3.)  Improving behaviors and thoughts related to this disorder

–  Behavior changes are essential for the successful management of this condition
–  Often initial motivation evaporates and the return of behavior is easy to fall back upon.

Medication Options


–  This mental health medication helps and is effective in certain aspects of Anorexia.
–  It can be an appetite stimulant as well.

Dietary Options

Nutrition Counseling
Medical Nutrition Therapy

.  Zinc  (can help facilitate weight gain)
.  Omega-3 fatty acids
.  Multivitamin


.  Family Therapy
.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
.  Yoga
.  Others


In most cases – the duration of symptoms is just under 2 years.
More often than not, a good outcome will be seen when family-based treatment is given.

Severe cases – recovery is around 55-80 months on average.
Full Recovery, or close to, is seen over 75% of the time.

In extremely severe cases the outcome or complications can be severe from weight loss, suicide, and even death.