Anorexia Nervosa


By: Nikki Nies

TV advertisements, billboards and commercials show physically fit, attractive women.  It downplays the behind the scenes touch ups and alterations done to reach final image.  These images resonate  with children, adolescents and adults attempting to emulate their role models.

It’s not realistic to think people can stop emulating celebrities, but to monitor and guage how often such idealation impact daily life and thoughts is crucial.  With a constant fixation on outward appearance and body image, it can lead to an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa.The concept of anorexia is not new, but stems from the Hellenistic times of fasting.  Early known fasters include Catherine of Siena and the Mary, the Queen of Scots.  Not until the 19th century was anorexia accepted as a medical condition until the 19th century, with limited exposure to medical profession until the late 20th century.  Once anorexia was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), more information was published to the public, which increased the availability of treatments.


  • Use laxative or diuretics to lose weight 1287
  • A low body weight
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Osteoporosis
  • Swelling of extremities
  • Excessive exercise
  • Flat mood
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Bluish discoloration of fingers
  • Constipation or slow emptying of stomach
  • Thinning hair, dry skin and/or brittle nails
  • Low blood pressure
  • Feeling cold—with lower than normal body temperature
  • Shrunken breasts
  • Lack of menstrual periods
  • Have food rituals or restrictions
  • Spend a lot of time rearranging food on plate or hiding food
  • Warning signs of suicide (i.e. giving away belongings, being angry, failing grades, substance or alcohol abuse, depression, recent job loss)

Body’s starvation mode can cause all of the bodies’ resources to pull together to survive.

Potential Consequences

  • Limits bowel movement–>constipation
  • Decreased iron intake–>anemia
  • Insominia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low heart rate
  • Liver damage, kidney failure, dehydration–>death
  • Lack of calcium–>fractures
  • More susceptible to bruises because of inadequate intake of vitamin C and K since these are 2 vitamins vital to blood and cells
  • Produce more cortisol–>bone loss
  • Greater risk of not reaching peak bone density
  • Not enough keratin–>hair loss and brittle nails
  • Altered testosterone levels
  • Cold feet and hands
  • More susceptible to bruises
  • Weakened immune system
  • Deficiency in potassium, magnesium and/or sodium
  • Imbalance of electrolytes
  • Slowed digestion from lack of protein and/or carbohdyrates
  • Amenorrhea,may becausedbyosteopenia, osteoporosis and/or infertility
    • Decreased estrogen levels and gonadotropin hormones


  • Receive medical care from doctors,therapistsandRDs
    • Reevaluate definition of “healthy”
    • Develop meal plan to gain weight—scheduling times to eat
      • Nutritionguidelines: weight gain of 2-3 lbs. for hospitalized patients
        • 0.5-1.0 lbs for outpatients
        • start with 1000-1600 calories per day meal plan, increasing as needed
    • Maudsley Method:  parents are held responsible to help their adolescent eat on a more consistent basis and to prevent the disorder to remain chronic.
    • Family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy
    • Medicines—mood stabilizer, anti depressants, anti psychotics, estrogen, calcium, zinc and/or vitamin D supplements
    • Family and friend support
    • Reevaluate amount of exercise

Although, anorexia often is associated with adolescent girls and women, young male adolescents and men should not be overlooked.  While the stress of being a part of the American culture can cause many to fall prey to the “thin” concept, it’s important to surround oneself with love and support.  If you know someone who could use your help, don’t hesitate to talk to them or find someone who could help your concerned family member.

If this information could help a loved one, please pass on in a kindly manner.  Thank you.  

Photo Credit: Anne of Carversville and Women’s Health Zone


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