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Anorexia Nervosa FAQs: Answers to your most frequently asked questions

Anorexia Nervosa (also referred to simply as anorexia) is a complex and often misunderstood eating disorder that affects individuals of all ages and backgrounds. At Schoen Clinic, we are committed to providing comprehensive care and support for those struggling with this condition.

In this article, we address some of the most common anorexia FAQs, shedding light on its symptoms, causes, and treatment options to help you better understand and navigate this challenging journey.

If you need specialised treatment for anorexia, please don't hesitate to contact our caring team.

Frequently Asked Questions | Anorexia FAQs

the word "anorexia" spelled out in letters on a wooden surface

What is anorexia?

Anorexia is a serious eating disorder. It's a form of self-starvation which typically presents during adolescence but can also develop later in life. People with anorexia frequently have a mistaken perception of their bodies and think they are overweight. They excessively restrict their food intake or adjust their behaviour to prevent weight gain as a result of this distorted sense of self.

One of the repetitive eating behaviours that can result from anxiety over food and weight is the reluctance to be seen eating by others. Individuals with anorexia may often collect recipes, prepare meals for friends and family, and then refuse to eat any of the food. They could also maintain strict, demanding exercise schedules in order to lose weight or keep it off.

Finding a way to talk about your concerns with a family member, friend, or another close relative is essential because anorexia is such a serious condition and early intervention is shown to be more effective than later intervention. A full recovery is harder to attain if anorexia is not treated for a longer length of time.

What causes anorexia?

Instead of having a single core cause, anorexia nervosa has a variety of different reasons.

These variables can occasionally be divided into three groups:

  • Those that increase a person's risk of developing an eating disorder

  • Those that trigger that disorder's emergence

  • Those that maintain the eating disorder.

Anorexia nervosa frequently begins with simple dieting to "get in shape" or to "eat healthier," but it eventually progresses to severe and dangerous weight loss. Family history, genes, neurochemicals, developmental factors, and external influences are just a few of the factors that might contribute to the development and maintenance of anorexia nervosa. Anxiety, sadness, or obsessive behaviours are common and may run in families.

Some additional factors that potentially affect anorexia include:

  • Social perceptions of physical appearance

  • Family dynamics

  • Genetics

  • Chemical abnormalities in the brain

  • Developmental problems.

People with anorexia are susceptible to isolating themselves from others. They might also suffer from anxiety disorders or other mental health issues.

What are the signs and symptoms of anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is characterised by weight loss, self-starvation, and low weight for height and age. Given that anorexia is an extremely serious illness with one of the highest mortality rates of any mental health diagnosis, it is imperative to begin treatment as soon as possible.

When your anorexia causes you or others to worry, it typically manifests as significant weight loss and a sharp fall in your physical and mental wellbeing. If a person's body is not provided with the nutrients and food it requires, their risk of developing health problems worsens over time. This typically causes indicators including hair loss, persistent weariness, difficulties concentrating, and a propensity to feel unwell and is frequently accompanied by anxiety or depression.

Is anorexia a choice?

No, anorexia is not a choice. There is a common misconception that people struggling with anorexia only want attention, or that they're vain and only care about their looks. This stigma around anorexia, and eating disorders generally makes it more difficult to come forward for help if they are struggling.

The truth is many people who have anorexia may not be aware that they have developed the disorder until it's too late to pull themselves out without specialist treatment.

Who does anorexia affect?

Anorexia is more common among young girls and women than boys and men, but that doesn't mean boys and men aren't also at risk of developing the disorder. People of any age, race, gender or sexual orientation can suffer from eating disorders like anorexia.

Although they are frequently identified in adolescents and early adults, many people receive their first eating disorder diagnosis in their later years of life. Sometimes the first warning signs and symptoms appear when a person is considerably younger, though these go unnoticed due to natural bodily changes taking place during that time.

Anorexia nervosa not only affects the individual diagnosed with the disorder but also their family, friends and loved ones. Over the past 20 years, anorexia nervosa diagnoses have increased in frequency. Women between the ages of 12 and 25 make up about 90%.

How is anorexia diagnosed?

A young person is more likely to have people around them who can recognise the early signs of disordered eating because anorexia typically manifests throughout adolescence. Despite the fact that many people with the eating disorder try to keep their illness highly discreet and hidden, parents, siblings, coaches, coworkers and teachers may be able to recognise someone who has anorexia nervosa.

Due to the fact that a number of conditions may resemble some anorexia nervosa symptoms, a complete medical evaluation is necessary. When family members spot anorexia nervosa symptoms in a loved one, they can support them by urging prompt assessment and care. Early therapy usually helps to prevent future problems.

Anorexia can be identified by a psychiatrist or mental health professional.

What's the difference between anorexia and other eating disorders?

Eating disorders, such as bulimia, binge eating disorder other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED), or anorexia, are mental health conditions that affect a person's eating habits and occasionally their exercise routine. These eating issues are harmful to health.

Unlike individuals with bulimia and binge eating disorders, those with anorexia do not eat enough to support basic bodily functions. People with bulimia and others with binge eating disorders commonly gorge when feeling out of control.

You might experience several eating disorders throughout your lifetime but treatment can aid in your recovery, regardless of the type of eating disorder you may have.

What are the long-term effects of anorexia?

Without prompt, qualified treatment, anorexia can have a number of detrimental long-term repercussions, such as:

  • Menstruation loss or stoppage in females

  • Female infertility

  • Seizures

  • Issues with bones, hair, and teeth because the diet is deficient in calcium and other essential nutrients

  • Potentially long-lasting physical health concerns like osteoporosis

  • Lack of essential nutrients and insufficient calorie intake, which puts pressure on the heart, cause heart and kidney disorders.

  • Organ failure and in extreme instances can be fatal.

How can I prevent anorexia from developing in my child?

Experts don’t know how to prevent anorexia. However, early detection and treatment might lessen symptoms. It can promote your child’s regular development. Additionally, it might raise their standard of living. Encourage your child to establish realistic attitudes toward diet and weight by modelling healthy eating behaviours.

How can I help my child if they have anorexia nervosa?

Speak with your child's doctor or see a specialist as soon as possible if you are concerned that your child has an eating disorder. You can assist your child in the following ways:

  • Participate in family counselling as recommended.

  • Be a compassionate and helpful parent to your child. If you are having trouble, seek out individual counselling for yourself.

  • Mention your child's anorexia to others.

  • To develop a treatment plan, consult with your child's doctor, school, and other relevant parties.

  • Request assistance from the neighbourhood community services. Contacting other parents who have kids with eating disorders may be beneficial.

  • Our multidisciplinary team at Schoen Clinic Chelsea includes registered dietitian nutritionists, occupational therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and therapists. The care team for your child will be determined by their needs and how severe their anorexia is.

At Schoen Clinic, we are dedicated to supporting individuals of all ages in their journey towards recovery from Anorexia. Outpatient appointments are available for both children and adults at Schoen Clinic Chelsea in London, providing accessible and personalised care.

For those requiring more intensive treatment, our inpatient hospitals offer specialised care: Schoen Clinic Newbridge in Birmingham caters to children and teens, while Schoen Clinic York provides comprehensive treatment for adults.

Our multidisciplinary teams are here to guide and support you every step of the way.

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