Anorexia Nervosa — Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Preventions, and Treatments

Anorexia nervosa, or commonly called anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by an excessive fear of gaining weight, and an impaired perception of body shape.

People with anorexia are obsessed with having a thin body, and make various efforts to get the ideal body shape according to them.

To achieve or maintain a thin body shape, people with anorexia will try hard to limit the portion of food to a minimum, or use drugs such as laxatives and appetite suppressants.

Even though they have lost a lot of weight, people with anorexia will continue to exercise excessively for fear of gaining weight.

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

Symptoms of anorexia include physical and emotional symptoms. In addition, the symptoms of this disease can also be seen from the behavior shown by the sufferer.

Physical symptoms

  • Excessive weight loss.
  • Looks thin and weight is not ideal.
  • Loss of sexual desire.
  • Disorders of the heart organs, such as palpitations.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Dry skin on the hands and feet due to lack of blood flow.
  • Dehydration.
  • Easily tired, even fainted for no reason.
  • Teeth are easily damaged.
  • Fine hair appears on the face and other body parts.
  • Can’t stand the cold.
  • Hair thins and falls out easily.
  • Constipation or stomach pain.
  • Swelling in the arms and legs.
  • Menstrual disorders.
  • Blue fingers and toes.

Psychological symptoms

  • Feeling inferior.
  • Easily anxious and depressed.
  • Fear of weight gain.
  • Think too much about body shape and weight.
  • Feeling fat even though your weight is below normal.
  • Decreased concentration ability.
  • Easily angered at mealtimes.
  • Excessive in dieting and maintaining weight.

Symptoms on behavior

  • Excessive dieting, such as counting calories.
  • Feel like eating a lot even if you only eat small portions.
  • Hiding food.
  • Abuse of slimming drugs, diuretics, and laxatives.
  • Often in the mirror to see the shape of the body.
  • Lying by saying you have eaten even though you haven’t.
  • Withdrawing from the social environment.
  • Excessive physical exercise, and stress if you can’t do it.
  • Self-injury, even attempted suicide.
  • Frequent weight gain.
  • Don’t want to eat in public.

Causes of Anorexia Nervosa

It is not known exactly what causes anorexia. But experts attribute the disease to a combination of environmental, psychological, and biological factors.

  • Environment . Modern culture views beauty or good looks, success, and wealth as related to a thin body. Encouragement from peers can strengthen the desire to have a thin body, especially in young women.
  • Psychological . Some people with anorexia have anxiety that makes them go on a strict diet. Sufferers also have a strong urge to look perfect, because they feel they are not thin enough.
  • Biological . Although the type of gene associated with anorexia is not yet certain, experts suspect this condition is triggered by gene changes.

Risk Factors for Anorexia Nervosa

Although it can also be experienced by men, anorexia is generally experienced by women. It is known that 85-95% of people with anorexia are female. This mental disorder can also afflict individuals of any age, but is more common in adolescents, and is rarely experienced by those over the age of 40.

In addition to gender and age, a number of other factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing anorexia are:

  • Disharmonious family environment such as poor communication, frequent fights, and difficulty dealing with household conflicts.
  • Have experienced a traumatic event, such as being raped or being bullied about your weight or body shape.
  • Psychological problems, such as difficulty expressing feelings, dislike of own body shape, low self-esteem, applying high standards to body shape (perfectionist), and easily feeling anxious, lonely, depressed, and angry.
  • The assumption and pressure in society that a slim body shape is perfect.
  • Being born prematurely, having a low birth weight, or being born with twins.
  • Imbalance of brain chemicals that regulate hunger.
  • Family history of anorexia.
  • Too many diets.

It is not known exactly what causes anorexia. But experts attribute the disease to a combination of environmental, psychological, and biological factors.

  • Environment . Modern culture views beauty or good looks, success, and wealth as related to a thin body. Encouragement from peers can strengthen the desire to have a thin body, especially in young women.
  • Psychological . Some people with anorexia have anxiety that makes them go on a strict diet. Sufferers also have a strong urge to look perfect, because they feel they are not thin enough.
  • Biological . Although the type of gene associated with anorexia is not yet certain, experts suspect this condition is triggered by gene changes.

Diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa

As with other mental disorders, doctors use the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to obtain a diagnosis of anorexia. Patients will be declared anorexic if they experience the following criteria:

  • Limiting food intake to gain or maintain a below-normal weight, regardless of energy requirements.
  • Has a great fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. This fear triggers sufferers to do activities that can reduce or maintain their weight, even though their weight is below normal.
  • Having trouble seeing his own body, such as constantly observing his body shape and weight, and denying that his weight is below normal.

The doctor can also perform a physical examination, which includes measuring height and weight, as well as measuring the patient’s vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate.

A number of tests may also be performed to confirm the diagnosis, rule out other conditions causing weight loss, and check for complications. Some of these tests are:

  • Laboratory tests, such as a complete blood count, electrolyte and protein levels in the blood, examination of kidney function, liver, kidney, thyroid gland, and urine tests.
  • Psychological evaluation of the patient, including questions and answers to find out the patient’s mindset, feelings, and eating habits.
  • X-rays, to determine bone density, possible lung infection (pneumonia), and to determine heart conditions.

Complications of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia can cause serious complications if left untreated, and can even lead to death. A number of health problems that can occur due to anorexia, including:

  • bone loss (osteoporosis), which can lead to bone fractures (fractures)
  • Menstrual disorders, including irregular menstruation, in women.
  • Decreased testosterone levels in men.
  • Kidney disorders.
  • Problems with the digestive system, such as flatulence, constipation, and nausea
  • Electrolyte disturbance .
  • Anemia.
  • Heart problems, such as heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias), heart valve disease such as mitral valve prolapse (MVP), or heart failure.
  • Damage to a number of organs, such as the brain, heart, and kidneys due to nutritional deficiencies.
  • Lack of intake of protein, minerals, and essential nutrients for the body (malnutrition).
  • Severe dehydration.
  • A decrease in the number of white blood cells that triggers infection.
  • Thyroid hormone disorders.
  • Seizures due to lack of fluids triggered diarrhea and vomiting continuously.
  • Tooth decay.

In addition to the various physical disorders above, anorexia can also cause mental disorders. These include mood disorders (eg, irritability or depression), obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality disorders, thoughts of self-harm or even suicide, and drug abuse.

Prevention of Anorexia Nervosa

There is no effective way to prevent anorexia nervosa. Doctors may be in a good position to identify early indicators of anorexia and prevent the development of severe disease. For example, they may ask questions about eating habits and satisfaction with appearance during regular consultations.

If you notice that a family member or friend has low self-esteem, severe dietary habits, and dissatisfaction with appearance, consider discussing the matter with him or her. While you may not be able to prevent an eating disorder from developing, you can talk about healthier behaviors or treatment options.

Anorexia Nervosa Treatment

Various treatments for anorexia, including:

  • If it has reached an emergency stage and symptoms of malnutrition have led to death, medical treatment at the hospital needs to be done.
  • Increase weight regularly and safely by following doctor’s advice.
  • Handling anorexia through psychological aspects such as behavioral therapy to change negative thought patterns, analytic cognitive therapy by tracing the patient’s past, and interpersonal therapy to assess the patient’s environment.
  • Commonly prescribed medications include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers.

When to go to the doctor?

If someone experiences the signs and symptoms above, immediately make an appointment with a doctor and with a psychologist at the nearest hospital. Doctors and psychologists will work together to provide the right treatment.

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