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Eating Disorders: Anorexia

What is it?

Anorexia is self-starvation. Most anorexics are girls between the ages of 14 and 18 years of age, however, boys can suffer from this as well. A person with anorexia has an intense fear of becoming fat that she hardly eats anything and becomes dangerously thin. Anorexics often weigh as little as 80 to 100 pounds. Anorexics may also over exercise. If the condition gets worse, anorexics can die from suicide, heart attack, or starvation.

Many factors may be involved and are different for each person. Some factors include:

  • Feeling insecure.
  • Extreme social pressures.
  • A distorted body image (feeling fat)
  • Severe family problems.
  • A history of sexual abuse.
  • Pressures from activities such as running, gymnastics, etc.
  • A family history of depression or an eating disorder.

What does it look like?

A person with anorexia may:

  • Buy, prepare, and cook food only for others.
  • Cut up food into very small pieces.
  • Eat only “safe” foods, usually those low in calories and fat.
  • Spends more time playing with food that eating it
  • Become more self-centered
  • Exercise compulsively
  • Become angry when not able to exercise
  • Spend less time with friends and family
  • Wear baggy clothing to hide extreme thinness
  • Develop rituals to keep mind off of hunger (i.e. chewing each bit of food 30xs before swallowing)
  • Have kidney and liver damage
  • Have pain in abdomen, constipation, and bloating
  • Have very low blood pressure
  • Have hair on head fall out
  • Constantly feel cold
  • Have fine hairs on other parts of the body
  • Have bones that stick out
  • Have menstrual periods stop

How do you treat it?

The chance of successfully treating someone who has an eating disorder is much higher if the disorder is detected early and the person begins to get help. Treatment depends on many things, including the person’s willingness to cooperate, family and support structure, and the stage of the disorder. Treatment begins with a visit to a physician, who will examine the person’s medical condition to see how the eating disorder has affected the body. If the effects are severe, the person may need to be hospitalized for treatment. In treating anorexia, increasing the person’s weight is crucial. If the anorexic needs to be hospitalized, her treatment will focus on getting her weight back up to normal level. If she refuses to eat, she may need a feeding tube to get the proper nutrients into her body. Hospitalization often helps the anorexic slowly change her behavior so that when she returns home, she can gain weight slowly with outpatient pediatric and psychiatric treatment. Counseling is necessary to help a person with an eating disorder understand how she uses food as a way of handling problems and feelings. A mix of individual therapy and family therapy is usually most effective in treating eating disorders. Therapists can help families create a supportive home. These disorders do not go away by themselves.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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