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Anorexia Nervosa Adults and Teens


Anorexia Mental Disorder

A new era of "modern" diseases began 300 years ago and most mysterious appeared to be the disease called "nerve phthisis ", which later was renamed into Anorexia Nervosa *. Anorexia Nervosa usually starts with a diet that slowly gets out of control and drives a patient from a simple diet to an excessive dieting. The more weight patient losses the more he/she is being immersed into the disease.

Anorexia Nervosa has many horrible symptoms and sometimes can even lead to death. The reason this disease was called anorexia, simply because it is associated with one of the neurobehavioural disorder that actually is taking place "within the mind" of the patient

It is useful to know that the word " anorexia " in the definition of the disease is actually misleading since the syndrome is not a disturbance of the appetite. Appetite is not harmed until the late stages of the illness.

*Anorexia - derives from the Greek (the absence of appetite)

  • Anorexia Nervosa is classified as mental illness with the high mortality rates of 20%.

What exactly is Anorexia Nervosa ?

Anorexia Nervosa is a psychogenic disorder of self-imposed starvation. Those who are suffering from this disease actually suppress their willingness of normal food consumption and have the irrational fear of fatness. Keep in mind that anyone can develop an eating disorder of Anorexia Nervosa, regardless of age, gender and social status.

However, it has been observed that women, especially young ones, in between 15-25 years old, are most likely to be the victims. The disorder occurs more frequently in people who have tried several diets. The most "vulnerable" occupations to the illness, are those where a person's appearance and requirements of low weight play a dominant role. Victims of illness are usually athletes, models, actors, singers and dancers.

Following recent deaths, due to the disease, in the fashion industry, many fashion designers pledged to take measures to minimise or even to eliminate the number of models suffering from eating disorders. So far, however, such measures have not been implemented to the most and we still see skinny models.

The onset of the disease is not only a matter of mimic behaviour towards thin models, imposed by the media fashion and beauty standards, as most people might think. Today scientists ascribed it to a combination of neurological, psychological and social factors, while research suggests that there may be a genetic predisposition.

Here are psychological factors, that directly or indirectly may affect the onset of the disease.

  • unstable family environment
  • traumatic event
  • love rejection
  • anxieties concerning the sexual orientation of a person.

The Symptoms of Anorexia in TEENS

  • Anorexia in TEENS

There are few symptoms we can notice in a person suffering from anorexia nervosa. These symptoms are various pathological conditions mentioned below.

  • Weight loss
  • Nail Atrophy
  • Insomnia
  • Teeth problems
  • Hypotension
  • Metabolic disorders
  • "Ritual attitude" towards food (ex. cutting food into small pieces)
  • Induction of vomiting, use of laxatives and diuretics drugs
  • Abdominal pain, dizziness, fainting
  • Feeling cold
  • Discolouration and dryness of the skin
  • The disturbance of menstrual cycles or amenorrhea
  • Low libido, problems in the circulatory system and reduction of bone mass
  • Changes in personality and mood swings (secrecy and hyperactivity)
  • Denial
  • Excessive exercise
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Depression and ambivalence
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Anaemia
  • Refusal to gain more weight
  • Death.

How Does Anorexia Nervosa Progress ?

Anorexia nervosa usually thrives among female population and rarely in the male population, but most often it can be noticed in the third decade of a person's life. Victims mostly are 20 to 25-year-old adults. But there are also many teens affected by anorexia as they try every day to resemble skinny models.

Three critical phases of illness.

The beginning of the illness in any individual is recognized by three phases.

  • First Phase. Diet along with excessive exercise gives the desired results. The person loses weight and feels good. There is no suspicion of the disease at this phase.
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  • Second Phase. The negative signs become more obvious. The environment of the patient begins to notice excessive weight loss. The person feels different and begins to distance himself/herself from his/her family and friends. He/she refuses to eat with the rest of the family and he/she is wearing baggy clothes to cover the deficient weight.
  • Third Phase. The anorexic patient doesn't admit the illness and adopts the food deprivation as his/her lifestyle.

Teenagers and Anorexia Nervosa

Treatment Of Anorexia Nervosa


Fortunately for the patients, both teens or adults, there are many successful treatments for Anorexia. Actually, two hundred different forms of psychotherapy are being used to deal with the illness, but only three of them are most preferable by therapists.

  • Individual Psychotherapy.

Most forms of psychotherapy emphasise on building a good relationship between the patient and the therapist. Psychotherapy focuses not only on the current problems of the patient but also on the aspects of his/her personal history. Most therapists try to encourage healthy eating habits and an increase in weight. However, in many cases, treatment focuses on other issues, and the patient is encouraged to explore and express his/her feelings about a wide range of topics such as success and failure, sexuality and self-control.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy.

This therapy program includes food diaries and extensive education on nutritional issues which are emphasised on the dangers of malnutrition. Therapy encourages the discussions concerning health issues and analyses the relationship between the patient and the food. Many cognitive therapy programs have been developed to change the unrealistic view of the patients concerning their body (a self-image).

  • Systemic treatment within the family environment.

The relatives of anorexics are actively involved. They cheat, threat and even beg the patient to eat. Sometimes these attempts are performed effectively but mostly they complicate the situation of anorexia. Only with the help of psychotherapists anorexia can be treated within family environments. But in order to complete the treatment, psychotherapy is not enough. Two more stages are necessary.

  • The hospitalisation is the first stage of treatment
  • And the stabilisation of the patient's condition is second

Anorexia Nervosa and Teenagers - What to do ?

My child shows symptoms of anorexia. What should I do? Where should I go?

  • Paediatricians who are specializing in adolescent population can indicate the anorexia and determine if there has been any physical damage.
  • Psychiatrists who expertise in eating disorders, will indicate if your child needs to take medication.
  • Psychologists who specialize in the field of eating disorders will provide a support for the child and the family and will help to overcome the disease.
  • Dietologist - Nutritionist will offer a diet plan for your child that will include the essential vitamins required.

It is important that specialists with the aforementioned disciplines work as a team to ensure consistency of the treatment of anorexia nervosa. Moreover, as the disease of eating disorders in adolescence has been reported in recent years, it is likely that young scientists will be able to use more effective and modern treatments to help your child.

If you notice that an expert does not make you a proposal to include all of the above disciplines in the therapeutic plan, it is likely that such expert doesn't have proper knowledge of the treatment. Keep in mind that therapeutic intervention takes considerable time (at least 6-8 months) to reach the desired results and to eliminate the disease.

Anorexia is a serious psychiatric illness but it has a good prognosis if treated in the early stages. Adolescents, who have received proper treatment and support of the family, will be able to live a normal life after the mentioned therapeutic interventions.

Lets never take Anorexia Nervosa lightly especially when it comes to our children. Such diseases have to be treated as soon as possible to avoid any health problems that may appear as a result of illness. Do not forget that Anorexia Nervosa can lead to death. Do not encourage your children to follow the image of those extremely thin models and support the young generation by helping them to overcome any concern or problem.

  • Teach your kids to love themselves no matter colour, shape or sexual orientation.


Lorna Lamon on February 11, 2019:

Thank you for drawing attention to this particular eating disorder. As a psychologist I find this is one of the most difficult disorders to treat, however, educating families, schools and friends is so important. Gaining an understanding is the first step towards reaching out and helping. Thank you for sharing.

Ashley Ferguson from Indiana/Chicagoland on February 13, 2016:

Very useful. Sadly, I see more and more people in deep denial about this problem. Enjoyed reading, hope to see you around. :)

Leena from new delhi on September 24, 2013:

Actually there's too much pressure and importance attached to looking thin, rather than healthy.

SAM ELDER (author) from Home on April 17, 2013:

Thank you :)

Aileen Billones from Naga City, Philippines on April 17, 2013:

Very informative.

SAM ELDER (author) from Home on April 17, 2013:

Thank you for your comment. When writing this article I tried mostly to point out why Anorexia Nervosa occurs and what should parents do to protect and help their children. The reason I wrote that victims are usually actors, models and singers is because in comparison with other professions, these 3 are showing the biggest percentage of victims. For example among 1000 teachers there are only 2 or 3 with eating disorder, but among 1000 models you can find 40-50.

Thank you again for your comment.

Victoria from Long Island N.Y on April 17, 2013:

Good article and I think it can help a lot of people. However, the only thing I have to point out is "Victims of illness are usually models, actors, singers and dancers" Having suffered from an eating disorder myself & after years of treatment, I can assure you that it actually affects suburban middle class family's the most. Usually it's more the "introvert" type that this disease plagues (hence why all the "pro-ana" websites were extra successful). A person who has a strong desire to please mixed with a competitive drive (athletes fit into this) also a person with slight OCD tendencies. I'm not trying to come across as a "nit picker" so I apologize if that's what it sounds like. This just happens to be very near and dear to my heart ,and I don't want parents thinking "my daughter/son isn't an aspiring so and so, everything's fine." Combined with the fact that I'm in the medical field, I couldn't help but point that out. Again, I mean no disrespect and I thank you for helping to teach and bring awareness to this disorder.

SAM ELDER (author) from Home on April 09, 2013:

Indeed. Thank you

Girish puri from NCR , INDIA on April 09, 2013:

very useful hub and can be seen quite frequently these days.

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