Anorexia nervosa, also referred to as anorexia, is a complex eating disorder that affects millions of people each year in the United States and around the world. It is characterized by a preoccupation with body weight or shape and limiting food intake, resulting in unhealthy weight loss. It may also be accompanied by other behaviors such as vomiting after meals, the use of substances like diet pills, or intense exercising. Though it often develops during teenage years or adolescence, anorexia does not discriminate between age, gender, race or class.
Anorexia is a complicated disorder, and it is important to know the signs and symptoms to look for. Below is a list of common characteristics found in individuals who suffer from it:
Feeling worried, preoccupied or sad about body shape or weight
Significant fear of gaining weight or frequently checking weight
Limiting or restricting the types or amount of food eaten
Feeling guilty after eating
Avoidance of eating with others
Exercising intensely or taking diet pills, laxatives, diuretics, or other substances to control body shape or weight
Perceiving their body differently compared to the way others view them
Enjoyment of cooking for others but not for themselves
Difficulty fulfilling commitments or responsibilities due to exercise habits, eating patterns, or thoughts about appearance.
Isolating from others or spending more time alone
Because of its complexity, several different factors can contribute to the development of anorexia. Some of these may include:
Biological factors, such as genetics
Emotional factors, such as increased sensitivity to changes or low self-esteem
Cultural and societal factors, such as images in the media
Interpersonal factors, such as difficulty expressing feelings or a history of being teased
No one factor is responsible for causing anorexia, and it is important for loved ones to know they are not the cause. It develops from a multitude of factors that are unique to each individual, and understanding this becomes critical when a person seeks treatment.
Specific goals for eating disorder treatment will vary from person to person, because each individual has unique circumstances. More generally, eating disorder treatment might help someone:
Identify underlying factors which may have contributed to the development of the eating disorder
Understand the purpose of the eating disorder and why it has persisted
Develop a new set of skills to navigate one’s life and effectively cope with emotions and stress
Improve communication, connection, and relationships with loved ones
Heal the relationship with food through nutrition education and experiential activities
In addition, eating disorders frequently co-exist with other issues, such as depression, anxiety, or the effects of trauma. It is absolutely essential that the eating disorder and any other co-occurring disorders are simultaneously addressed and treated in order for the individual to fully recover.
Center For Discovery Alexandria, VA specializes in treating eating disorders and the co-occurring conditions that are accompanied with them, with unique treatment programs for every individual to get them on their way to eating disorder recovery. For more information, resources, or to consult with an eating disorder treatment specialist, call 703.940.1636
Anorexia can lead to profound life-threatening medical and psychological consequences and often coexists with other issues, such as depression and anxiety. It has the highest death rate of all mental health conditions, and 1 in 5 deaths from anorexia are from suicide. If an individual is suffering from anorexia, it is critical that they get professional help from an eating disorder specialist as soon as possible. Experts in the field of eating disorders have found that early intervention and intensive treatment can significantly improve a person’s chance of recovery.
The anorexia recovery program at the Alexandria, VA treatment facility usually involves some form of psychotherapy or counseling, including individual, family, or group therapy; which is combined with attending to the nutritional and medical needs of the individual. This requires a caring team of specialized professionals, which at a minimum includes a therapist, a dietitian, and a medical doctor. Treatment should be uniquely tailored to the individual, and the level of care will vary depending on severity and needs.