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Anorexia Nervosa (cont.)

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa?

Individuals with anorexia nervosa have an intense fear of weight gain or becoming fat and/or might view themselves as being highly overweight despite the fact that they might be severely underweight.

Anorexia nervosa sufferers may use one or more of the following unhealthy ways to lose weight.

  • Under-eating/extreme dieting
  • Excessive and/or compulsive exercise
  • Vomiting
  • Laxative abuse
  • Diuretic abuse (medications that increase the amount of urination)
  • Use of appetite-suppressant medicines

Usually, people try to keep these behaviors secret. For example, if eating with others, a person with anorexia may move food around on their plate or place some food in a napkin to hide it. They may also stay busy serving food or cleaning up rather than actually eating. If confronted about these behaviors, the individual may deny or refuse to discuss them. Anorexia sufferers may also use social isolation in an effort to avoid scrutiny of their eating.

Some of the following signs and physical effects may also be brought about by starvation or by weight-reduction methods:

When Should Someone Call the Doctor About Anorexia Nervosa?

There are no home remedies for anorexia nervosa. Any person who displays symptoms of this condition (undereating, inducing vomiting, or abusing laxatives in an attempt at weight loss) needs medical and psychiatric help. Some specialists are adept at treating these very challenging patients. This eating disorder can cause severe medical complications or death if not treated.

Anorexia nervosa can result in life-threatening medical symptoms. The following signs and symptoms indicate the need for emergency evaluation:

  • Suicide is a major cause of death in people with anorexia nervosa. Any person with severe depression or suicidal thoughts or statements needs to be brought to the hospital's emergency department immediately. Call 911 for an ambulance if you believe there is even a remote possibility of imminent suicide.
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Profuse vomiting or diarrhea
  • Blood in vomit or diarrhea
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness
  • Severe dehydration
  • Often the doctor may choose to admit a person with anorexia to the hospital for a variety of medical or psychiatric reasons.
    • The illness may result in a number of negative effects on the body (cardiac and endocrine systems, electrolytes) from starvation, vomiting, diuretic, laxative abuse, or appetite-suppressant abuse.
    • Complications of anorexia can also include developing water-electrolyte imbalance, low body temperature, anemia, and osteoporosis.
    • Outpatient treatment of anorexia nervosa is often unsuccessful. Someone with this disease may need prolonged treatment (including cognitive, behavioral, medication, and counseling or some combination) in a structured hospital environment or special inpatient eating disorders program to have their best chance of survival.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2017

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Anorexia Nervosa »

Richard Morton first described anorexia nervosa more than 300 years ago, in 1689, as a condition of "a Nervous Consumption" caused by "sadness, and anxious Cares."

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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