What Is Anorexia?
Also known as anorexia nervosa, this eating disorder is a serious mental health issue with potentially life-threatening consequences. Since anorexia symptoms tend to develop slowly over time, they can be difficult to recognize. Fortunately, the dedicated clinicians at Eating Disorder Solutions can diagnose this eating disorder and provide treatment.
Most often, anorexia develops in teenage girls. However, it is problem that can develop at any age, and affects many adults as well. Sadly, anorexia is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder in the country.
In general, anorexia nervosa is characterized by an obsession with body shape, food intake and weight to the point of starvation. Individuals with anorexia restrict how much they eat because they worry about being fat even when they aren’t. They may even lose more weight than is healthy for their age and height. Some of them achieve weight loss by purging, excessive exercising, taking diuretics or laxatives, or a combination of these unhealthy behaviors.
Usually, individuals with anorexia have trouble coping with their emotions, have low self-esteem and feel like they don’t meet everyone else’s standards. They may also struggle with negative situations or traumatic events in their lives. Eating Disorder Solutions takes a multifaceted approach to anorexia nervosa recovery in Dallas, Texas. We believe that recovery is possible when individuals learn to manage their anorexia symptoms, emotions, resolve underlying problems and eat a balanced diet. Our mission is to teach each client how to achieve these goals.
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Anorexia Nervosa Statistics
To demonstrate the seriousness of this disorder, we’ve provided some anorexia nervosa statistics below.
- In addition to being more common in women than men, anorexia nervosa is one of the most common mental illnesses in teens.
- Many factors can lead to anorexia, however, 50-80% of the risk of developing anorexia nervosa actually stems from genetics.
- Those who suffer from anorexia generally have a higher likelihood of committing suicide. It’s reported that 1-in-5 anorexia deaths are attributed to suicide.
- Anorexia has the highest fatality rate among all mental illnesses.
- In the US, only ⅓ of those affected by anorexia seek treatment.
Symptoms of Anorexia
Although the most prevalent symptoms of anorexia nervosa are starvation and an obsession with body shape, food intake and weight, there are many others to be aware of. Some of the most obvious physical anorexia symptoms include a thin appearance, extreme weight loss, cold intolerance, dizziness, frequent fatigue and seizures. Other symptoms may be concealed or only discovered by a doctor:
- Abdominal pain and constipation
- Abnormal blood count
- Bluish fingers and brittle nails
- Decreased libido in adults
- Dry skin and hair loss
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Irregular heart rate
- Loss of bone calcium (Osteoporosis)
- Low blood pressure
- Skipped period in girls or women
- Swollen arms and legs
- Teeth erosion from purging
Typically, individuals with anorexia constantly worry about calories and following a strict diet. They often pretend that they aren’t hungry when they are, are terrified of weight gain, lie about how much they eat and have trouble sleeping. In addition, their self-esteem revolves around an unrealistic perception of their appearance and expectations of how they should look.
We discuss all of these possible behavioral issues and distorted beliefs when we assess individuals for anorexia symptoms. In doing so, we can provide an accurate diagnosis and begin to develop a personalized treatment plan.
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Warning Signs of Anorexia
Even before individuals develop anorexia symptoms, their loved ones might notice red flags that something is wrong. Sometimes, self-aware individuals notice these signs of anorexia in themselves. Generally, the early signs revolve around an obsession over dieting and restricting food intake, such as:
- Adopting eating rituals, such as weighing food and spitting it out after chewing
- Avoiding eating in public
- Making excuses for not eating
- Not eating elaborate meals that they cook for others
- Only eating what they believe are “safe” foods
- Refusing to eat anything or specific food groups, such as carbohydrates and fats
- Skipping meals
The warning signs of anorexia might be difficult to differentiate from normal dieting behaviors at first. Other times, it’s hard to determine what is considered underweight because it’s different for each individual.
Over time, these early anorexia symptoms get worse, and the habits become time-consuming. Eventually, those closest to the individual begin to notice, which can potentially disrupt their career, education and relationships. Other habits that loved ones might notice include:
- Avoiding friends and losing interest in regular activities
- Frequently measuring or weighing themselves
- Complaining about being overweight
- Repeatedly looking for “flaws” in the mirror
- Difficulty concentrating
- Developing a lack of emotion
- Wearing layers or baggy clothes to hide their weight
Individuals don’t always experience all of these behavioral, mental and physical signs. However, they typically have several. It’s critical for anyone experiencing these conditions to seek treatment when they notice any anorexia symptoms in themselves or loved ones. By getting help as soon as possible, they can prevent the potentially life-threatening side effects.
Anorexia Relapse: Signs & Symptoms
Unfortunately, anorexia relapse is very common. That isn’t to say treatment doesn’t work; it does. The biggest problem individuals face is that they are not aware of the signs and symptoms of anorexia relapse, which can lead to them not seeking help when they should.
At first, it may be difficult to notice the red flags of relapse. You may not be aware of the triggers that set off your old ways of thinking. Over time, though, it may become more evident. Hopefully, you’ll notice the signs of anorexia relapse way before any damage is done. Some common signs are listed below:
- Returning negative thoughts of weight, food, or oneself
- Feelings of isolation, anxiety, or depression
- Re-engaging in past eating behaviors, including skipping meals
- Returned guilt of eating
- Noticeable change in weight
Common Co-Occurring Disorders for Anorexia
In many instances, those who suffer from anorexia also suffer from a co-occurring mental disorder or addiction. Different types of co-occurring disorders include anxiety, depression, ADD, and OCD. Co-occurring disorders may even appear as drug addictions.
These co-occurring disorders can actually increase the severity and worsen the symptoms of anorexia, making it more difficult to control. At Eating Disorder Solutions, we’ll make sure to provide a thorough diagnosis as well as provide a specialized treatment plan that addresses both anorexia as well as any and all co-occurring disorders.
Anorexia Treatment Programs
A diagnosis and thorough treatment are necessary when individuals recognize anorexia symptoms. However, it’s important that they don’t try to diagnose or treat this eating disorder on their own. Instead, they’ll require access to the right level of professional care in order to address all of their needs.
The team of doctors, nurses, dietitians and therapists at Eating Disorder Solutions have a vast amount of experience treating anorexia nervosa. We can provide comprehensive treatment options that addresses the emotional, mental and physical problems our clients may experience. With a combination of individual counseling, group therapy, nutritional education and family therapy, we can tackle the obstacles that contribute to anorexia symptoms and habits. In fact, our facility offers four levels of treatment in order to meet varying needs throughout the recovery process.
Our residential program is the highest level of care at our facility. In fact, we’re one of very few facilities that offer such a high level of care for eating disorders. This program requires individuals who experience anorexia symptoms live at our treatment center until they are stable and ready to return home. While the duration of treatment might only be a few weeks for some individuals, others may need a few months.
During residential treatment clients will receive 8 to 10 hours of therapy every day. On the weekends, we plan special outings for those who participate in the recovery program. We like to get families involved in counseling as well so that they can learn about what their loved ones are going through and how to support them at home after residential treatment.
As part of our full continuum of care, our team continues to provide guidance as individuals adjust to living at home after residential treatment. Anorexia symptoms can creep back up when individuals have to deal with life stressors on their own making ongoing support critical.
Through our partial hospitalization eating disorder program, we aim to avoid that. It involves visiting our facility five or six days a week for five hours of therapy each day. The actual amount of time that individuals spend in treatment will depend on their specific recovery needs. Although it doesn’t include 24-hour support, it continues to provide structure our clients’ lives to help them stay on track.
Similar to our partial hospitalization program, our intensive outpatient eating disorder program prevents the recurrence of anorexia symptoms by providing ongoing support during recovery. It consists of visiting our facility three days a week for three hours each day. How long each individual spends in the program depends on how much guidance that they need.
Although it includes the lowest level of care for eating disorders, our standard outpatient eating disorder program provides ongoing therapy for clients who request it. They visit our treatment center once or twice a week for one hour of counseling each time. By choosing this program, they ensure that they get continuous guidance to maintain their recovery.
If you or someone you love experience anorexia symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek treatment. Get the right level of care to prevent the dangerous effects of anorexia and begin the path to a healthy future. Reach out to the specialists at Eating Disorder Solutions for extensive, customized treatment today.