Anorexia nervosa is a complex disorder in which the patient doesn’t take in enough calories to sustain a healthy body weight. Patients with anorexia restrict their calorie intake to lose weight or maintain a lower than normal weight.
The most obvious symptom of anorexia nervosa is weight loss. However, some patients with this condition, especially children, may fail to gain weight instead. Other symptoms of anorexia nervosa may include:
• Intense fear of gaining weight
• Preoccupation with calorie intake
• Excessive exercise
• Distorted body image
If the disorder becomes more severe, the patient may have physical problems, such as irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, osteoporosis, and more.
Researchers don’t know exactly causes anorexia nervosa. However, it’s believed to be a combination of psychological, biological, and environmental factors. Certain emotional characteristics, such as an extreme drive for perfection or chronic anxiety, make this disorder more likely.
Certain genetic traits may also put a person at a higher risk of developing anorexia nervosa. In addition, environmental pressures, such as the Western culture’s focus on thinness, may contribute to anorexia.
Dr. Horne may suspect anorexia nervosa based on your appearance or a description of your symptoms. However, to confirm the diagnosis, he usually investigates further. He may perform a physical evaluation and/or a psychiatric evaluation. During this time, you may be asked to answer specific questions about your thoughts and feelings. You may also complete written psychiatric assessments.
The goal of evaluation is to determine whether you have a healthy body image, whether you’re restricting calories unnecessarily, and whether you have an abnormal fear of gaining weight.
Most patients with anorexia nervosa need psychotherapy to recover. Dr. Horne may recommend both individual and family therapy to give you the best chance of overcoming your disorder.
Medication isn’t typically prescribed to patients with anorexia, as no drugs have been found to help with this condition. However, if you’re struggling with other issues at the same time, such as depression or anxiety, Dr. Horne may recommend medication.
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