Anorexia Nervosa

Callie Ollish, Anna Wagoner, Spencer Morphis

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is severe and deadly eating disorder indicated by starvation and unreasonable weight loss. This most commonly affects adolescent females. They deny to maintain a healthy weight for themselves because they have a fear of gaining weight. Even though they are losing weight continuously, they see their body as overweight and not pretty in their mind. Also, they starve oneself to ease the anxiety in their lives. “An estimated 10 to 20% of people with anorexia will eventually die from complications related to it, giving anorexia nervosa the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.” (Thompson, 1997)

Etiology- What is the cause(s)?

Anorexia is a condition that emerges from a variety of many different emotional, social, and biological factors. Theories suggest that your environment can play a big role in the cause of anorexia, as well as struggling with your self-esteem, and traumatic events (rape) that you have experienced throughout your life. If your relatives (ie: mother, sister, aunt) have anorexia nervosa, then you are at a higher chance to have the disorder because it is around them frequently. The culture that we live in causes some women to feel a certain way about their body and have such a high standard of beauty. Images of impeccable perfect women are seen daily, which causes women to want to live up to that standard. New studies also show that genes and hormones could possibly be a factor in developing this complex disease.

What are the symptoms?

    Symptoms for Anorexia Nervosa include:

    • Being very reserved about your eating patterns
    • Making up excuses for not eating meals
    • Wearing baggy clothes to camouflage that you are losing weight excessively
    • Being obsessed with reading food labels
    • Mood swings, depression
    • Have trouble eating in public
    • Failure to appreciate how bad your situation actually is
    • Constantly checking your weight on the scale over and over

    Where is it most prevalent?

    It is estimated that 1.0% to 4.2% of young women have suffered from anorexia in their lifetime. There has been a rise in the number of anorexia cases in girls between the ages of 15-19 in each decade since 1930.The reason anorexia is such an issue is because 40-60% of elementary aged girls are concerned about their weight (Smoalk, 2011). Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors. An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia are male. Men as less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders however, because they are perceived as “women’s diseases.” The reason anorexia is such an issue is based on the culture. In first world countries, especially in the United States, the perception of “perfection” is shoved down teenagers throats. This leads to anorexia in teenagers more because they are trying very hard to fit in.

    What are some treatment methods?

    Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is most of the time the treatment of choice for people with anorexia. CBT is time-limited and a focused approach that helps the patient understand how their thinking and negative self talk or self image can impact their eating behaviors. Family therapy is another form of psychotherapy for people with anorexia. This can occur with or without the patient present. When the patient is present the therapy helps show them the dysfunctional role they play within the family and how their eating disorder maintains this role. Without the patient, the family sessions are meant to help the family understand the disorder, understand what the patient is going through as well as give suggestions to how they can fix it. Medication is also an effective therapy, even though there is not a specific medication to treat anorexia. Instead antidepressants or estrogen is given to them. An anorexia patient can also seek residential treatment facilities, hospitalization, or self help.

    1. Many studies have been done to establish a familial link for anorexia nervosa, and the correlation appears to be there. Twin studies have revealed that anorexia is approximately 50-80% heritable. This means that genes can nearly guarantee whether or not someone will struggle with anorexia during their lifetime. However, there is no way to definitively rule out environmental factors, ("Why girls...", 2008).
    2. One study spanned three different continents (in order to reduce the chance of a cultural skew) studying the onset to anorexia and its comorbidity with various anxiety disorders. This particular study looked at patients that also had anxiety disorder such as social phobias (20%) and obsessive compulsive disorder (41%). Researchers found that the onset of anxiety disorders preceded the onset of anorexia nervosa in many cases, ("Why girls...", 2008).
    3. Wagner and Kaye looked at 32 patients (16 control) studying the areas of the brain that are active when eating. In control patients the Insula lit up like a christmas tree, this area of the brain includes the primary region of the brain that responds to taste. This was the first evidence that people with Anorexia actually respond to taste differently than people without, ("Why girls...", 2008).
    • Disturbances in dopamine function could alter weight, feeding behavior and motor capability
    • Frank and Colleagues studied ten women that had recovered from Anorexia Nervosa
    • "Compared with 12 healthy control subjects, they had significantly higher C Raclopride binding potential in the basal ganglia's anteroventral striatum irrespective of their age, body mass index, or time since recovery. The researchers also found increased dopamine D2 and D3 receptor activity in another part of the basal ganglia called the dorsal caudate, which was related to anorexics' responses to and avoidance of harm," ("Why Girls..," 2008).
    • Could relate to patients borderline obsession with the future and their lack of pleasure during eating and other activities