Aim For A Weight Loss Of Between 5 And 10 Anorexia Can Be Deadly – What Can Be Done?

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Anorexia Can Be Deadly – What Can Be Done?

Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder in which a person refuses to eat and as a result loses more weight than is healthy for him.

The condition affects between 5% and 10% of the population, mostly in teenage girls and young women, but one in ten sufferers are men although this number is increasing.

A key feature of Anorexia Nervosa is self-imposed starvation due to a distorted body image.

Those affected have an irrational but strong fear of becoming fat even though the condition has progressed so far that they are clearly thin.

Although anorexia means no appetite, anorexics are paradoxically often very hungry and rarely lose their appetite.

Causes and Incidence of Anorexia

No direct cause has been isolated but genetic factors, social pressures that equate thinness as a mark of beauty and psychological factors have been linked. Related conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety are often present as well.

Anorexia is quite often seen in cancer patients, especially in patients with advanced cancer and in fact Anorexia is the main cause of malnutrition in cancer patients.

Signs and Symptoms

An almost horrifying preoccupation with being fat and a recent weight loss of 25% or more for no physical reason, anger, ritualistic behavior, amenorrhea, loss of appetite, persistent fatigue, sleep disturbances, constipation and intolerance to cold temperatures are indication of anorexia.

Loss of fat and breast tissue, blotchy and pale skin, scalp problems and skeletal muscle atrophy are other indications.

During the examination, the pulse rate may be low and Bradycardia may also be present, the salivary glands and intestines may be blocked.

These physical symptoms are quite strange often accompanied by excessive energy and exercise.

Another somewhat paradoxical finding was the obsession with preparing and serving elaborate meals for others.

Diagnosis of Anorexia

Anorexia is usually first diagnosed by a family doctor but a formal diagnosis is based on the following standards;

* Refusal to maintain body weight at a normal level for age and height, often falling to 15% or as much as 25% below the norm.

* A deep fear of gaining weight or becoming fat despite an obvious underweight problem.

* Distorted perception of their body shape.

* Absence of at least 3 consecutive menstrual cycles.

Further testing can rule out endocrine, metabolic and CNS abnormalities as well as cancer and other diseases involved in physical wasting.

Treatment of Anorexia

After evaluation by a team that includes physicians, dieticians and psychiatrists, the goal is to encourage weight gain, control bulimia if present and discover and address any underlying psychological problems.

Hospitalization may be required, supplementation with vitamins and minerals may be necessary and group or family psychotherapy is essential.

Mood-altering drugs such as tricyclic antidepressants and serotonin reuptake inhibitors are sometimes prescribed but the evidence for this type of treatment is weak. Appetite stimulants can also be used.

The use of cell signaling molecules and power strip patches to help activate the body’s immune system and physical well-being has several potential beneficial effects.

For treatment to be successful, the underlying issues of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression must be addressed first.

A good regimen might include;

* Hospital admission

* Psychiatric counseling

* Target weight consultation and adequate food intake

* Supervision during mealtimes

* Emotional support

* Group therapy

* Use of a food journal

* Advice to the family

Although a relatively good number of anorexia can be treated successfully, especially in early cases, the mortality is still from 5% to 15% with about one third of deaths due to suicide.

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