Anorexia is an eating disorder. It occurs when a person's obsession with diet and exercise leads to extreme weight loss. The disorder is considered if a person refuses to maintain a body weight at or above 85% of their ideal body weight. It can be fatal.
Factors that increase your risk for anorexia include:
Symptoms may include:
Anorexia often leads to a number of serious medical problems including:
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The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. There will also be psychological tests.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Your heart's activity may be tested. This can be done with an electrocardiogram.
Your bones may be evaluated. This can be done with a bone density test.
The goal of treatment is to get you return you to a healthy weight and to help you maintain that weight. A healthy weight is above 85% of your ideal weight. To achieve this, your intake of calories is gradually increased. This can be accomplished through a number of interventions, including the following:
A dietician may be consulted to help you learn more about the components of a healthy diet. The dietician will also talk to you about reasonable weight goals and calorie goals.
Cognitive-behavioral therapists help you develop a healthier and more realistic self-image. The therapist will help you find new ways to think about your body and your diet.
Therapy can help you understand and cope with concerns about your relationships.
Families often play a role in eating disorders. Many patients cannot recover unless their families are involved in the changes. All families need to understand the disorder and provide support.
In some cases, anorexic patients benefit from a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication. In particular, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used. Used alone, antidepressant therapy is not an effective treatment for anorexia.
Medications and supplements may include:
Hospitalization may be necessary if:
If you are diagnosed with anorexia, follow your doctor's instructions.
There are no guidelines to prevent anorexia. Early detection and treatment is the best option.
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
National Eating Disorders Association
Canadian Mental Health Association
National Eating Disorder Information Center
Anorexia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated February 20, 2013. Accessed July 22, 2013.
Anorexia nervosa fact sheet. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://womenshealt... . Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed July 22, 2013.
Casper RC. How useful are pharmacological treatments in eating disorders? Psychopharmacol Bulletin . 2002;36:88-104.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013