Anorexia Nervosa is a Fatally Serious Illness


Anorexia nervosa is a restricting type of eating disorder that involves an unhealthy, severe reduction of food intake due to body dissatisfaction and extreme concern about weight. Individuals with anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight even though they are dangerously thin. Women are more likely than men to develop an eating disorder and approximately 0.5 to 3.7 percent of women specifically suffer from anorexia nervosa in their lifetime.  It is the most common cause of death among young women. The mortality rate for anorexia is 0.56 percent per year, which is about 12 times higher than all other causes of death among females ages 15-24 in the general population. The course and outcome of this eating disorder vary across individuals; some individuals can fully recover after a single episode but some experience a continuing deterioration from this illness over years. Individuals with anorexia repeatedly check their body weight, avoid eating food or eat food in tiny quantities, and engage in various techniques to control their weight, such as intense exercise or abuse of laxatives. Adolescent girls with anorexia experience amenorrhea, which is an absence or delayed menstruation.

Common symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height
  • Intense fear of gaining weight, even though underweight
  • Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced
  • Denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight
  • Infrequent or absent menstrual periods
  • Picking out a few foods or carefully portioning food
  • Constant, ceaseless weight checking and obsession

Since many individuals with anorexia tend to conceal their unusual eating habits and wear baggy clothes to hide weight loss, this illness can advance to life-threatening stages before it is noticed by families, friends, and romantic partners. Fortunately, eating disorders can be treated and individuals can become healthy again. Anorexia nervosa treatment is a specific program that involves three main steps:

  1. Restoring weight lost to severe dieting and purging
  2. Treating distorted body image, low self-esteem and interpersonal conflicts
  3. Achieving long-term remission and rehabilitation

An early diagnosis of anorexia nervosa can increase a successful outcome of treatment and medication should be considered after a healthy weight gain has been reached. Certain SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have been helpful for weight maintaining and resolving mood and anxiety symptoms for this disease. Once individuals with anorexia have gained weight and malnutrition has been restored, psychotherapy can help them overcome deeply-rooted self-esteem issues and body image distortions.

If you or a loved one live in Manhattan or Bergen County New Jersey and might be suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, the psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling can assist you. Contact our Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices of psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment.  Visit for more information


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