Symptoms may include:
- Excessive weight loss
- Obsession with food, calories, and fat content
- Dieting even when thin
- Intense fear of gaining weight, even when underweight
- Body dysmorphia—distorted self-image of being overweight despite evidence of the opposite
- Basing self-evaluation heavily on body weight or shape
- Loss of menstrual periods
- Excessive exercising
- Feeling cold, especially hands and feet
- Being secretive about food
- Hair loss and/or growth of fine hair on the body
- Fainting or severe light-headedness
- Heart palpitations
Anorexia often leads to a number of serious medical problems including:
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The goal of treatment is to return to and maintain a healthy weight. A healthy weight is above 85% of your ideal weight. To achieve this, the intake of calories is gradually increased. This can be accomplished through a number of interventions, including the following:
A dietitian may be consulted to help you learn more about the components of a healthy diet. The dietitian will also talk to you about reasonable weight and calorie goals.
Therapy can help address harmful thought patterns, improve eating behavior, and increase self-esteem. There are many different types of therapy. Work with your doctor and therapists to determine which therapy may be best for you. You may use more than one therapy or try different therapies before you find one that works best for you. Some therapy options include:
Cognitive behavioral therapists
—To help you develop a healthier and more realistic self-image. The therapist will help you find new ways to think about your body and your diet.
—To help you understand and cope with concerns about your relationships.
- Family therapy—Families often play a role in eating disorders. Many people cannot recover unless their families are involved in the changes. All families need to understand the disorder to provide the appropriate support.
In some cases, people with anorexia benefit from a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication. In particular, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
are used. Used alone, antidepressant therapy is not an effective treatment for anorexia.
Addressing Nutritional Status and Loss of Bone Density
Medications and supplements may include:
- Vitamins and minerals to maintain adequate nutrition
to resume periods and prevent bone loss
Hospitalization may be necessary if:
- Weight is more than 25% below ideal body weight
- There are signs of serious physical or emotional deterioration