Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder characterized by preoccupation with body weight and food. Behaviors focus on loosing weight, peculiar handling of food, intense fear of gaining weight, obsessive thinking about ones weight, disturbance of body image in which one feels fat when weight is normal, and amenorrhea (loss of menstrual period) in females. Denial of their symptoms is characteristic of anorexic patients. This can be a deadly illness and often requires hospitalization. These people can actually starve themselves to death and may need significant medical intervention in order to recover.

Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa is a multifaceted endeavor. The initial focus of treatment is to restore ones nutritional state to normal. Malnutrition is life threatening and can cause psychological symptoms that make treatment more difficult. If the patient will be treated on an out patient basis you should refer to a physician for a comprehensive physical exam, lab work, you will need a release. As previously mentioned, hospitalization may be required. Once nutritional status is restored, behavioral, cognitive, and eclectic psychotherapy including dietary management are more effectively utilized. Psychodynamic, group and family therapy has shown to be successful as well.

One characteristic of this illness is that many patients deny the severity of their symptoms. A weight gain contract may be used so the patient is clear that the bottom line is to normalize eating habits and remain healthy.

Some helpful techniques for treatment are challenging distortions in body image, improving self-esteem, general social skills training, assertiveness training, and group treatment.

An evaluation with a dietician can be helpful. For the anorectic patient, an evaluation with a dietician can have a powerful impact by helping the patient to become knowledgeable about nutrition, dieting, and healthy eating.