Anorexia simply means a loss of appetite. Each one of us would have come across this condition at least once in our lifetime or would have a family member who would complain about having a loss of appetite/no desire to eat on particular days. When the food prepared is not of our taste, we have overeaten our previous meal, we are ill, or when we are under stress, we might experience a loss of appetite. It can also happen on hot summer days where the body would desire to have cold drinks instead of food.
However, there is a category of people who experience anorexia persistently. This would be a medical condition called anorexia nervosa. These people have an abnormal perception of their weight and body image and have a great fear of gaining weight and hence refrain from eating food normally.
Causes of Anorexia Nervosa:
This is more of a psychological issue and could be triggered by several reasons. Here are some prominent reasons which may lead to anorexia nervosa.
- Peer pressure: These patients could either have friends who are extremely thin or bully the patient by calling her fat. This is most commonly observed in teenage girls, who experience bodily changes during puberty. These changes could trigger a self-perception of being fat and ugly.
For instance, there was a patient whose daughter was very sensitive. Her friends used to repeatedly tell her that she was growing fat. Once her mother jokingly told her that she was growing fat. That was the trigger factor for her anorexia. After this, she drastically reduced her food intake, refused to eat food, and induced vomiting when she felt that she had eaten more food. This made her become very weak and finally being admitted to the hospital.
- Societal pressure: In our society, the definition of being attractive is to have a slim figure and fair complexion. This is also propagated through advertisements. While looking for marriage alliances, the females who are obese have to face a lot of rejections. This could trigger an episode of anorexia in young females and also those who have gained weight after their pregnancies.
- Professional pressure: Certain professions require that the person is lean, for instance, modeling, air-hostess, etc. A person aspiring to be in one of these professions, in a bid to lose weight, could get affected by anorexia nervosa.
- Stress and Depression: It could also be a sign of underlying depression where the patient has become indifferent to herself/himself. It could also happen due to grief after the loss of a beloved person or by being under severe stress.
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- It could also be a sign of abuse.
- The patient could be having self-esteem issues.
- There could be a family history of an eating disorder in either of the parent.
Types of Anorexia Nervosa:
Some patients may experience anorexia in the form of exhibiting strict self-restraint in eating/avoiding food, whereas others may fluctuate between restricting calories, binge eating, followed by guilt, and inducing vomiting to overcome the guilt.
Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa:
Anorexia Nervosa would cause potential damage to the health because of the severe diet restrictions the person places on oneself.
There are physical symptoms as well as mental symptoms
- Physical Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa:
- Physically, the person exhibits the symptoms of malnourishment and is underweight with a BMI of less than 16.
- The individual exhibits high self-control over diet restrictions and calorie-intake.
- The person will be very conscious about the calories, carbohydrates, and fat contained in every food item that he is eating.
- The person will be preoccupied with thoughts about food.
- The individual will have symptoms of anemia, being weak, and lethargic.
- The person will experience fainting episodes.
- The person will experience a hair loss, thinning of hair, and hair breakage due to severe malnourishment
- The individual will have low blood pressure, irregular heart rhythm, and mitral valve prolapse.
- Irregular menses or no menses at all.
- In males, the testosterone levels could reduce.
- Dry skin.
- Become sensitive to the cold with bluish nails.
- May have constipation due to the absence of bulk.
- A lack of nutrition could lead to thinning of bones called as osteoporosis leading to an increased risk of fractures
- The patients who induce vomiting could have the risk of developing ulcers in their food pipe when the acid mixed food is thrown up forcefully after inducing vomiting. They could also have dental erosion or erosion of the enamel of the teeth because of the stomach acid.
- They may have thickening of the knuckle skin due to friction with teeth while inducing vomiting.
Mental Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa:
- The patient exhibits strict self-control while eating. May cook food for others but would refrain from eating it.
- Repeatedly check the weight and measure herself for weight loss.
- May avoid people, eat alone, and lie about the quantity of food intake
- A loss of sleep
- Lack of interest in sex.
- Lack of emotions
- Inability to focus and concentrate
People with anorexia nervosa do not perceive their behavior as being abnormal because they are more obsessed with their weight. Due to this reason, they won’t even visit a doctor for their symptoms. Also, it becomes very hard for their family members to convince them about their behavioral problems.
Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa:
This being a behavioral issue, the cause needs to be identified followed by the correction through counseling, encouraging the change in attitude, behavior, and acceptance through cognitive behavioral therapy. The participation of family members is encouraged
Nutritional therapy and multivitamin supplements would be required for the cases of malnutrition.
Severe cases may require hospitalization to correct malnutrition.
Homeopathic Medicines for Anorexia Nervosa:
There are homeopathic medicines indicated for anorexia nervosa. Since this is more of a psychological condition, the doctor will choose the medicine based on a detailed case study of the patient. This ensures that the medicine selected not only helps for anorexia but also corrects the underlying cause of it and ensures long-lasting results.
Homeopathic medicines, such as Ignatia, Lycopodium, Phosp acid, Natrum Mur, Carcinocin, and Arsenic Alb, are commonly prescribed for Anorexia.
If you feel you or your family member or friend is suffering from anorexia and need medical advice, feel free to chat with our doctors on our website www.askdrshah.com or you may also mail us your query and we shall get back to you.