Anorexia nevrosa is a disease causing a refusal to eat related to a particular mental state; like bulimia and hyperphagia, it is a very common eating disorder.
The ones who suffer from anorexia will fight a fierce and dangerous fight against weight gain, being the victim of many irrational fears often linked to real phobias such as weight gaining or obesity. This fear often leads them to put excessive and permanent control over their diet.
Although the appetite is mostly preserved, people with anorexia suffer from the need and desire to eat, which causes them a gradual weight loss that can go as far as emaciation (extreme thinness).
- The causes of Anorexia:
Anorexia Nevrosa is a part of eating disorders, but the exact causes of this condition are complex and often intricate. Researchers agree on saying that many factors are involved such as anxiety, genetics, neuro-endocrine dysfunctions, in addition to psychological, domestic and social factors.
- On a neurological level:
Many researches highlight a serotoninergic dysfunction. Serotonin (often called: “the happiness molecule”) is a substance that ensures the neurological transmission through synapses. It is particularly involved in stimulating the center of satiety (area of the brain that regulates appetite).
- On a Psychological level:
Many studies have linked the occurrence of anorexia with negative self-esteem (feeling of inefficiency and incompetence) and a great need for perfectionism.
- On a cognitive level:
Studies highlight negative and automatic thoughts leading to false beliefs often present in anorexic people such as “thinness is a guarantee of happiness” or “any fat intake is bad”.
Through this section, we can see that Anorexia is multifactorial and that its treatment should take all these causes in consideration.
- Associated disorders
The pathologies associated with anorexia are mainly psycho-pathological disorders. However, it is difficult to know if anorexia is the cause or the effect of these disorders. They often enhance the development of each other causing the creation of a vicious circle.
According to some studies, the main psychological disorders associated with anorexia are:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which affects 15 to 31% of anorexic patients.
- Social phobia.
- Depression affects 60 to 96% of anorexics at some point during the illness.
Extreme periods of fasting and compensatory behaviors (purges, use of laxatives …) lead to complications that can seriously harm kidneys, heart, and intestines.
- Diagnosis :
- Psycho-pathological evaluation :
To diagnose an anorexic disorder, the presence of several criteria is necessary:
- The main one is a refusal to maintain a normal weight that is to say 85% of its ideal weight (according to BMI).
- There is also an intense and even phobic fear of gaining weight associated with a significant disturbance of the body pattern (distorted view of weight, height and body shape).
- Finally, different behaviors related to food are typical in people with anorexia such as hiding food or encouraging others to eat. Each food intake is followed by a feeling of guilt leading them to adopt compensatory behaviors (intensive sports practice, taking purgatives …).
- Somatic evaluation :
In addition to psychopathological assessment, a complete physical examination is necessary to diagnose anorexia, but also to assess the state of undernutrition and the consequences of deprivation of food on the physical health of the person.
The behaviors set up by the person to reduce food intake have a more or less serious impact on health, leading the doctors to carry out a complete examination to look for any complication such as:
- Heart conditions (heart rhythm disorders for example)
- Dental diseases, including erosion of tooth enamel
- Gastrointestinal disorders such as bowel movement disorders
- Renal failure
- Dermatological disorders…
It is difficult to cure anorexia without a special treatment plan.
The prescription of drugs, the setting up of a nutritional care and the proposal to undertake psychotherapy can then be considered to cure anorexia. Sometimes, specialized hospitalization may be necessary.
Finally, Anorexia Nevrosa is a pathology that affects the industrialized countries population in several countries. Moreover, socio-cultural factors play an important role in its development (amongst them the current social criteria of beauty conveyed by the young models with the particularly thin and almost asexual body) largely influence teenagers in search of identity.
This eating disorder needs to be taken very seriously since it can endanger the lives of many young people, this is why the help of a psychiatrist through therapy is essential and can be life saving.