Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder, where people attempt to lose more weight than is considered healthy for their age and height. It is considered to be a serious mental health condition, which develops because of a fear of being fat or a desire to be thin despite them being underweight. They usually have a distorted negative self-image of themselves and may have had an anxiety disorder as a child. It mostly affects girls and women but in recent years it is also becoming more common in boys and men.
Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia
People who are anorexic work very hard at hiding their behaviour from family and friends. They severely limit the amount of food they eat or may lie or pretend to have eaten earlier. Alternatively, they may eat but then excuse themselves after meals to then force themselves to throw up. They tend to exercise all the time, miss meals, obsessively count food calories, repeatedly weigh themselves or look in the mirror. Physically, due to malnutrition they may experience, tiredness, lightheaded feeling, hair loss, dry skin, muscle wasting and loss of body fat and bone strength. There may be associated anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, alcohol misuse/abuse and self-harm.
Treatment of Anorexia
Treatment of anorexia is a slow, long-term process. Most people with anorexia deny that they have a problem. The aim of treatment is to restore normal body weight and eating habits. It will normally involve a combination of medication, psychological and dietary care. Antidepressant medication to reduce fear and anxiety may be used. Amongst the psychological treatments are also, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and cognitive analytic therapy (CAT).
Integrative & Complementary Medicine
Acupuncture can have significant effects on promoting a positive mental state of mind including reducing anxiety and depression. Treatment increases the levels of serotonin and encephalins in the central nervous system and plasma, both of which increase the production of endorphins in the brain and natural killer in the immune system. Collectively, they help to positively change mood and enhance immunity.
Nutrition is aimed at restoring weight but also good levels of nutrients, and vitamins. Probiotics, essential fatty acids and multivitamins will offer considerable benefit. In the case of muscle wasting and osteoporosis good quality protein supplement, calcium and vitamin D is essential.
Aromatherapy & Massage can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Essential oils with sedative, relaxing and immune supportive properties combined with massage may be beneficial. Massage exposes the body, and therefore may not be easily acceptable as a treatment. However the physical treatment and eventual benefits experience may help to change the negative perception of the body.
Revised: Dec 2014
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