What is anorexia?

A woman eats a cucumber as part of her anorexia treatment or anorexia nervosa treatment

Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental health condition with symptoms varying on the length and severity of the condition. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition the following are present in all diagnosed cases.

  • Restriction of energy intake, resulting in significantly low body weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat (despite having a significantly low body weight)
  • Disturbance in the experience of body weight or shape; undue influence of weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body weight

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa can be severe, and even eventually deadly. Without treatment between 5-20% of individuals with anorexia nervosa will die from the condition, with treatment the number decreases to 2-3%. In fact, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental health condition. In general, anorexia nervosa appears in early to mid-adolescence. It also disproportionately affects women.

Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa can be tough to spot, especially in the beginning. There are, however, a few tell-tale signs:

  • Weight loss (significant or sudden)
  • Preoccupation with weight, body, food, calories, fat grams, exercise and/or dieting
  • Refusal to eat certain foods or food group
  • Complains of constipation, abdominal pain, cold intolerance, lethargy, and/or excess energy
  • Distorted self-image
  • Expressed anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat”
  • Denial of hunger
  • Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate)
  • Avoidance of meals as well as other situations involving food
  • Participation in an excessive, rigid exercise regimen
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and/or activities
  • Increased irritability
  • Concerned about eating in public
  • Limited insight into and/or denial of the above mentioned unhealthy behavioral or cognitive patterns
  • Post-puberty female loses menstrual period
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Dental issues, such as enamel erosion, cavities, and tooth sensitivity

Health Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa

As the condition worsens, the symptoms of anorexia nervosa eventually become more severe. The following consequences can start to appear:

  • Slow heart rate and low blood pressure; the risk for heart failure increases, as heart rate and blood pressure decrease
  • Reduction of bone density (dry, brittle bones); the risk for osteoporosis/osteopenia increases as bone density decreases
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Dehydration (which can result in kidney failure)
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness
  • Dry hair and skin, hair loss
  • Growth of a downy layer of hair (lanugo) all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm

How We Treat

Our clinical treatment modalities for treating anorexia include the following:

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Exposure and response prevention
  • Experiential and symbolic experiential therapy
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Narrative therapy
  • Symbolic modeling (metaphor) therapy
  • Reality therapy
  • Relational
  • Family therapy
  • Strength-based
  • Psychoeducation

Anorexia Treatment at Magnolia Creek

You don’t have to continue to battle anorexia alone. If you’d like to find out more about our anorexia treatment program, simply pick up the phone and call. Our friendly staff is happy to assist you. You can reach us at 205-650-8077.