Anorexia Nervosa | Counseling | Therapy

Anorexia Nervosa

Alex Robboy , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

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Anorexia Nervosa: Is a psychological disorder characterized by an obsession to be thin and a distorted body image that drives people to be medically underweight.

Criteria Used in Making a Diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa:

* The individual is not maintaining a body weight within a normal range. Body weight will be 85% or less of what is expected for an individual’s age and height. This can be due to weight loss or alternatively the failure to make expected weight gain during a period of growth. Therefore, someone who has not lost weight but have not gained the weight expected (for his or her age and height) can still have a diagnosis of Anorexia.
* Intense fear of gaining weight despite the fact that they are medically underweight.
* In females the absence of three consecutive menstrual periods when otherwise expected to occur. The other scenario is a teenager who has not yet had her menses and fails to have one due to weight loss or of failure to gain weight as her height increases.
* Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight, size, or shape is experienced. (E.g. A person reports they feel fat despite the fact that they are considered underweight by medical standards.) This is referred to as distorted body image.

Furthermore, there are two subtypes of Anorexia Nervosa

* Restricting Type: This means that the person does not engage in behaviors such as Binge eating, vomiting, or misuse of Laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.
* Binging/Purging Type: This means that the person is engaging in behaviors such as binge eating, vomiting, and misuse of laxatives, diuretics, and Enemas.

The mortality rate for Anorexics in the (purging type) category is twice as high as those in the restricting category because people within this subtype are at an even greater risk for medical complications. Also, people within this subtype tend to exhibit behavior that is more impulsive. There is a strong association between this subtype and Borderline Personality Disorder. People with behaviors within the binging/purging subtype of Anorexia are more likely to engage in self destructive and impulsive behaviors such as shoplifting, suicidal gestures, substance abuse and self-injury. The “binges” in anorexia are usually different from the binges that will be later being discussed in the sections on Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. The difference is that the Anorexic person does not usually consume a significant amount of food or calories during these subjective binges. A “true binge” is as least 1000 calories.

Anorexia Nervosa: Age of onset Anorexia primarily begins in adolescence or early adulthood. The mean age for the onset of Anorexia is 17. It most commonly affects girls between the ages of 15 and 19. Anorexia Nervosa usually does not initially present before the age 13 or after the age of 20. With Anorexia Nervosa, most full-blown symptoms develop after the start of puberty. Puberty can be a trigger to an eating disorder partly due to the increase in fat accumulation that occurs in females during this stage of development. This fat accumulation during puberty has an especially negative effect on girls with a poor body image

Anorexia Nervosa can be fatal: Anorexia has a mortality rate estimated to be as high as 20%. The deaths caused by Anorexia are caused by medical complications or from suicide. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. If you or a loved one is suffering from anorexia, seek help as soon as possible. .

Frequency of Anorexia Nervosa: The prevalence of Anorexia in the United States is estimated to be between 0.3% and 3.7%.

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