Written by Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
Anorexia Nervosa is a chronic and potentially life-threatening disorder in which a person does not take enough nutrition to maintain the minimum body weight necessary for a healthy body. The body weight is usually 15% or more below the normal weight for that age.
It is commonly seen in young girls in their teens or in the early twenties. But it can affect men as well as older women.
Persons especially at risk for developing Anorexia Nervosa are aspiring models, film stars, dancers, TV personalities and athletes for whom being thin is an important necessity. But young girls who are under a lot of peer pressure to be thin, and who equate thinness with beauty, can also suffer from anorexia.
Food and weight gain becomes obsessions. Most people with anorexia nervosa develop strange eating habits. They like cooking large and elaborate meals for others which they themselves do not eat.
They refuse to eat in public and hide food when they do so. They cut their food into small particles and nibble at only a little of it while giving the impression of eating well.
Loss of weight is achieved mainly by eating only low calorie food like lettuce, spinach and popcorns and excessive exercising. The daily calorie intake may be less than 1000 calories.
Types of Anorexia nervosa
There are two types of Anorexia Nervosa:
This picture is that of a 40 year old woman whose only complaint was loss of periods for 1 year. She weighed only 30 kg. She looked alert and happy, insisting that she was eating normally and that her health was normal. She had to be admitted to the hospital when she had a fracture of the right femur which did not heal due to her severe ill-health and she died during treatment.
BMI according to the Severity of Anorexia
The BMI or Body Mass Indicator indicates the weight status of an individual. It varies according to the severity of Anorexia nervosa:
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Some Features of Anorexia Nervosa
But, people with Anorexia nervosa have high levels of hormones associated with stress like vasopressin.
Complications of Anorexia Nervosa
The severe lack of nutrition and calories causes a number of medical problems.
Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa
Treatment of anorexia nervosa is very difficult. The goal of treatment is to improve the eating habits and restore normal body weight. The aim should be a weight gain of at least 1 to 3 pounds per week
Fortunately, much of the medical complications like amenorrhea and heart palpitations revert back to normal with an improvement in the body weight.
Psychological support and therapy is an esentail part of the treatment of anorexia nerosa.
Medicines to improve depression, a supportive family and a recognition by the person herself that she has an eating disorder is important.
WIth medical marijuana becoming legal, it promises to become an important treatment therapy for Anorexia. Marijuana improves thhe mood, decreases anxiety and stimulates appetite - all important goals in the treatment of anorexia.
The mortality rate or the rate of death of Anorexia nervosa is quite high at 7 - 10%.
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