Signs & Symptoms Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder classified by the unhealthy disturbance in body shape and image resulting in the refusal to maintain a minimum body weight. Individuals will go to extreme measures not only to starve themselves, but also to rid their bodies of any caloric intake they consumed through self-purging mechanisms such as self-induced vomiting, laxative, diuretics and extreme exercise.

This devastating eating disorder is the number one killer out of all the mental health disorders and up to four percent of women in the United States have a lifetime prevalence of this disorder compared to 0.1-0.3% of men. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate out of all mental health disorders and as a result professional treatment is necessary before complication arise.

Symptoms & Warning Signs

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  • Do you think about food, dieting and weight all the time?
  • Are you constantly trying a new diet?
  • Do you think you are overweight when you look in the mirror?
  • Do other people constantly tell you that you are thin?
  • Do you have an intense fear of gaining weight?
  • Do you measure or weigh your food?
  • Do you avoid certain food types out of fear of weight gain?
  • Are you envious of other people because they are thinner than you?

Risks & Complications

The medical complications associated with anorexia can be extensive and if left untreated, can be irreversible. Eating disorders affect every organ system in the body. Complications of anorexia include:

  • Anemia
  • Heart problems, such as mitral valve prolapse, abnormal heart rhythms or heart failure
  • Bone loss (osteoporosis), increasing the risk of fractures
  • Loss of muscle
  • In females, absence of a period
  • In males, decreased testosterone
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, bloating or nausea
  • Electrolyte abnormalities, such as low blood potassium, sodium and chloride
  • Kidney problems

Causes of Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa results from the complex intertwining relationships between social, biological and psychological factors. Anorexia nervosa results from severe maladaptive behaviors triggered by trauma, anxiety, fear, low self-esteem and difficulty resolving conflicts. It is not due to a failure of behavior or will, nor is it easily controlled. 

Social causes
Peer pressure, preoccupation with slenderness and beauty, gaining autonomy, identity conflicts and the slippery slope of weight loss are plausible social factors many experts believe contribute to anorexia nervosa. Many young girls, for instane, become praised when they lose a little bit of weight such as 5 pounds and this praise leads down a path to more and more weight loss.

Genetic factors
Studies have shown that there may be a 50-80% heritability factor contributing to anorexia nervosa. Specific genes have been discovered that may contribute to the development of anorexia nervosa.

Psychological factors
Individuals with anorexia nervosa have an increased likelihood of developing another mental health disorder or vice versa. Co-occurring disorders in the mental health community are known as two mental health disorders that occur at the same time and one or the other could have been the cause.

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  • I was sent to [Center for Discovery], an all women's eating disorder treatment facility, and I was terrified to go. I was told I would be there for a month and would return home after that. I ended staying there for almost 3 months, and I can honestly say I am beyond thankful for my time there. I learned so much and they helped me find myself and get over my traumas and learn to cope with issues that I was having. All the staff was super helpful and had my best interest at heart. I may have not liked all of them, but I knew they wanted what was best for me. Even after my insurance run out, the therapist I was working with arranged for me to go to another center to continue my treatment because I was not ready to come home. I highly recommend getting help with Center for Discovery. They truly care!
    Rebecca S
  • I was at [Center for Discovery] for 6 weeks. I'm from Ohio and being so far away from home was hard. The staff made me feel super comfortable and cared for, making my stay much more manageable. The program was very individualized. They worked hard to make sure my specific needs were met and that my specific behaviors were addressed. This is a top notch facility with incredibly caring staff. Not only were the house staff wonderful, but everyone from admissions to the medical director worked hard to make sure I knew what was going on. This is a wonderful company who are true to what they say. They gave me my life back. I'm someone who has been in and out of treatment for my eating disorder and this program was by far the best. I feel so optimistic about my future. The progress I made there was life changing and I will be forever grateful. I recommend this program to anyone who is serious, willing, and ready to get better.
    Natalie F
  • I was surprised by my parents with the option of going to get help for my eating disorder and overall unhealthy lifestyle. I so badly wanted to get help, but was too ashamed. After talking to my mom I agreed to at least talk to someone from Center for Discoveryabout what program I would be in and what it would be like. The gal was super helpful, kind, and did not make me feel like I was the only person who suffered from what I did. She was very patient with me and overall helped out our family with the process of insurance and costs and what not. As for the actual facility I stayed at, it was a great experience.
    Rebecca S
  • We had our son in an acute care hospital and the social worker recommended the Center for Discovery. Before our son was discharged, my wife and I met with the staff and toured the facility. We were impressed by the staff and how the program was structured. Our son was there 6 weeks. It was a game changer and now we feel our son left with a good base of skills that he has continued to use. We now feel our son can leave a normal type life and not have to worry that he may need to live in a group home setting as an adult. We can't say enough for the help and support we received from the entire staff at the Center for Discovery. When we were considering the facility we did some reviews on line. Some weren't overly positive, but most were and we feel that it was a very positive experience for our son and our family. Even our son now admits that he learned some great skills and that his time at Center for Discovery turned his life around.
    John W
    Parent of Alumni

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