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What is Anorexia?
Anorexia Nervosa is a type of eating disorder that is characterised by weight loss. Typically, individuals with this disorder will have a difficult time maintaining an appropriate weight for their height, age, and stature. Characteristics of Anorexia Nervosa include individuals excessively controlling their diets and restricting calories, some may exercise compulsively, and others may induce vomiting or use laxatives to combat binge eating.
The American Addiction Centers report that less than 0.1 percent of adults over age 18 have Anorexia Nervosa. Women age 15-19 increases the prevalence to 0.9 percent. Men experience Anorexia Nervosa as well and approximately 0.3 percent will exhibit the disorder in their lifetime. In total, approximately 1.2 percent of the population aged 15 and older has had anorexia at a point.
Approximately 1.6 million individuals in the UK are affected by an eating disorder and typically, the condition initially develops around ages 16 and 17. Anorexia has a lower prevalence percentage than other eating disorders and continues to hold the highest mortality rate.
Signs of Anorexia
Signs and symptoms of anorexia include intentional weight loss and maintaining a low self-esteem of negative perception of their body. According to the DSM-5 criteria, to be diagnosed as having Anorexia Nervosa a person must display:
- Persistent restriction of energy intake leading to significantly low body weight (in context of what is minimally expected for age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health) .
- Either an intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, or persistent behaviour that interferes with weight gain (even though significantly low weight).
- Disturbance in the way one's body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body shape and weight on self-evaluation, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
What are the warning signs of Anorexia Nervosa?
Typically, someone will miss meals, lie about their eating patterns, excessively count calories, induce vomiting, and exercise or weigh themselves frequently. Additional signs are headaches, bloating and constipation, feeling tired or dizzy, feeling cold often, and problems sleeping.
Treatment for Anorexia
Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa can be done in tandem with your General Practitioner. You and your therapist will work together to determine the best and most appropriate modalities for treatment. A common therapy is Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) that aims to identify and process how behavioral patterns led to the development of the disorder and how to disrupt these unhealthy patterns. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) will reveal how closely the disorder is tied to unhealthy and unattainable thoughts and beliefs regarding food, diet, and control. With CBT you will work to replace the unhealthy and unrealistic thinking with positive and attainable thoughts and behaviors. Focal Psychodynamic Therapy (FPT) is based on the belief that mental health conditions may be associated with conflicts that occurred in the past or during childhood and have been unresolved. The primary focus of this therapy is to identify and process healthy ways to successfully cope with stressful situations and manage negative thoughts and feelings.
For more information about talking therapies and treatment programmes available at our Clinics in London, Milan and Rome please visit our Treatment page.
All our Therapists offer Psychological Therapies for Anorexia to Adults and Teenagers. Click here to meet the Team.
Sessions with our Psychologists are by prepaid appointments only. You can find out more about our fees on our Fees Page.
Further Reading about Anorexia
An eating disorder can have a “ripple effect” on a family unit - impacting one individual directly and causing an unintentional impact on others. Click here to view an article that provides tips and advice for communicating with your child. Additionally, please click here to view a list of coping skills to use if you are experiencing anorexia nervosa.