Primary Anorexia Nervosa


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primary anorexia nervosa Diagnostic Criteria

Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected; or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected).

Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.

Disturbance in the way in which one's body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.

In postmenarcheal females, amenorrhea, i.e., the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles. (A woman is considered to have amenorrhea if her periods occur only following hormone, e.g., estrogen, administration.)

Specify type:

Restricting Type: during the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has not regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)

Binge-Eating/Purging Type: during the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)

GENERAL SUMMARY

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that usually strikes women. Of the 7 million women aged 15 to 35 who have an eating disorder, many will die from the complications of anorexia.

Probably the most famous case is that of Karen Carpenter, who died from heart failure resulting from anorexia nervosa. This disease can be defined as self-starvation leading to a loss of body weight 15% below normal, accompanied with hyperactivity, hypothermia, and amenorrhea. Hypothermia results when the body's natural insulation (fat stores) become non-existent and the victim becomes cold all the time. Amenorrhea is the absence of at least three menstrual cycles -- this is also affected by the loss of fat stores in the body.

Anorexia may not be noticed in the early stages because it often starts as an innocent diet. They often become hyperactive because they exercise frantically in an attempt to burn calories to lose weight.

In the later and more dangerous stages, the disease may not be noticed by family members because the anorexic usually wears layered and baggy clothes.

Even though the anorexic is emaciated, she still feels fat and wants to hide her ugly, fat body. An anorexic may have ritualistic eating patterns such as cutting the food into tiny pieces and weighing every piece for food before she eats it. These behaviors can be found in people who are on a normal, healthy diet, but in anorexics these behaviors are extremely exaggerated.

A number of research projects involving experimen- tal preventive measures have been reported in the current medical literature. Some of these experiments may prove to be helpful either in reducing the risk of anorexia nervosa, or perhaps preventing it altogether:
(1) instruction on the harmful effects of unhealthy weight regulation;
(2) intervention with programs of weight regulation by practicing sound nutrition and dietary principles and beginning a regimen of aerobic physical activity; and
(3) development of coping skills for resisting the diverse sociocultural influences that appear linked to the current popular obsessions with thinness and dieting.

Current Research

There are many reasons as to why women develop anorexia nervosa. One is that it is dieting taken to a dangerous extreme.

Another is that societal pressures dictate a woman be thin in order to be beautiful -- the waif look was recently popular. But what these theories come down to is an issue of control. Whatever else is going on in the anorexic's life, the one thing that she feels she can control is food.

When problems in the family contribute to the feeling of loss of control, family therapy has provided a 90% improvement rate (Nichols & Schwartz, 1991). Behavior therapy is also used to change the eating patterns of an anorexic who is seriously close to death. This is usually after the anorexic has been tube-fed to prevent death.

Group and individual therapy has also proved effective -- it depends on the person and the situation. But it is usually very difficult for these interventions to be implemented because the anorexic is almost always in denial. She cannot recognize that there is a problem because she still feels and sees herself as being fat.

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Change Of Climate

A vast amount of research has been done on the subject of eating disorders and their causes. Many eating disorders have been proven to emerge during adolescence and often serve as the foundations to more serious problems like anorexia and bulimia. This essay will explore the development of eating disorders in adolescent girls. It will show that these disorders are closely connected to the biological and psychosocial changes that occur during the adolescent period.

    Many teen girls suffer with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder in which girls use starvation diets to try to lose weight. They starve themselves down to skeletal thinness yet still think that they are overweight. Bulimia, meanwhile, is a disorder in which young women binge on food and then force themselves to vomit. They also often use laxatives to get food out of their system. All of these young women who suffer from this problem are considered to suffer from a psychiatric disorder. While the causes are debatable, one thing that is clear is that these young women have a distorted body image. (Wolf, pp.214-216)

    What is extremely alarming is that the current thin ideal for women in Western society, which is unattainable for all but a very small percentage of the population, is compounding this problem. It is a very serious issue when someone's body shape is determined by genetic disposition and yet they try to alter it to fit some kind of imaginary ideal of how a person should look.

    Thus, one of the most serious problems is that female nature is not what society says it should be. Some researchers theorize that anorexia is a young woman's way of canceling puberty. Since they lack body fat, anorexics don't get their periods and often lose their sexual characteristics such as public hair. They remain, in other words, little girls. There is also the complex issue of women feeling that by having an eating disorder they are finally in control of something in their life. This may sound strange, but much research has shown that women who have been abused or neglected in their childhoods develop these problems of control. (Attie and Brooks-Gun, pp.70-71).

    Studies suggest that eating disorders often begin in early to mid-adolescence. They are directly connected to pubertal maturation and the increases in body fat that occurs during this phase. These biological changes are associated with increased dieting and unhealthy behaviours in early adolescence. This problem is aggravated by various problems, including negative body image, which has a close association with weight, perfectionism and depression. Family and socialization also play significant roles. It has been found, for instance, that mothers with girls with eating disorders are often critical of their daughters' weight and physical appearance. Families with adolescents who have eating disorders are also often characterized by enmeshment, overprotectiveness, rigidity and lack of conflict resolution. This is connected to the "control" issue mentioned previously. Interestingly enough, girls who are more involved in mixed-sex social activities and dating boys are also more likely to exhibit disordered eating tendencies. (Attie and Brooks-Gun, pp.70-71).

    Thus, eating disorders must be studied in the context of what certain individuals face during their developmental stage, or what they may have suffered in childhood. In general, a combination of the pubertal phase of the female body, the loosening of the individual's ties to parents, and the development of a stable and cohesive personality structure play profound roles in this process. Psychologists Ilana Attie and J. Brooks-Gun have done some work on this issue. They considered eating disorders within the so-called "developmental" perspective, which examines the emergence of eating disorders in adolescent girls as a function of pubertal growth, body image, personality development, and family relationships. The two psychologists examined 193 white females and their mothers during the former's middle-schooled years (13.93 years) and then two years later. They set out to see how much the development of eating problems represented a mode of accommodation to pubertal change. Taking a "developmental" approach, the authors studied the impact of the pubertal transition relative to other aspects of the female adolescent experience. (Attie and Brooks-Gun).

    These researchers emphasized one very significant fact: that as girls mature sexually, they accumulate large ... more

primary anorexia nervosa

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  • R: Anorexia R: Anorexia anorexia Eating disorders are devastating behavioral maladies brought on by a complex interplay of factors, which may include emotional and personality disorder, family pressure, a possible genetic or biological susceptibility and a culture in which there is an over abundance of food and an obsession with thinness. Eating disorders are generally characterized as bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and eating disorders not other wise specified. According to the World of Psychology anorexia is defin...
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  • S: Change Of Climate S: Change Of Climate Change Of Climate A vast amount of research has been done on the subject of eating disorders and their causes. Many eating disorders have been proven to emerge during adolescence and often serve as the foundations to more serious problems like anorexia and bulimia. This essay will explore the development of eating disorders in adolescent girls. It will show that these disorders are closely connected to the biological and psychosocial changes that occur during the adolescent period. Many teen gir...
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