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Anorexia nervosa

C. A. V. Nogueira, M.D. |
Overweight is well-known problem in the world, but unfortunately there is an opposite side: Anorexia nervosa. People with anorexia are obsessed with food, their weight, body shape and they attempt to maintain a weight that's far below normal.

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Anorexia nervosa doesn't choose its target: it usually occurs in teenage girls, but it can also occur in teenage boys, and adult women and men. People with anorexia are obsessed with being thin, they lose a lot of weight and are terrified of gaining weight. They believe they are fat even though they are very thin. Anorexia isn't just a problem with food or weight. It's an attempt to use food and weight to deal with emotional problems.

People sometimes mix anorexia and bulimia, but those are different problems, although both of them are very serious. People with anorexia starve themselves, avoid high-calorie foods and exercise constantly. People with bulimia eat huge amounts of food, but they throw up soon after eating, or take laxatives or diuretics to keep from gaining weight. People with bulimia don't usually lose as much weight as people with anorexia.

Unfortunately, the reason some people get anorexia is not known. They believe they would be happier and more successful if they were thin because they want everything in their lives to be perfect. People who have this disorder usually have high IQ and they are good students involved in many school and community activities. They have a feeling that they are to blame if everything in their life is not perfect. It is important to notice that there is no clear connection between media and anorexia. However, skinny models and actors may seem to equate thinness with success and popularity.

Warning signs of anorexia are deliberate self-starvation with weight loss, fear of gaining weight, refusal to eat, denial of hunger, constant exercising, greater amounts of hair on the body or the face, absent or irregular periods, and self-perception of being fat when the person is really too thin.

Since the reason is not known and people with anorexia are very intelligent, the treatment of anorexia is difficult. The problem is that people with anorexia believe there is nothing wrong with them. Patients in the early stages of anorexia may be successfully treated without having to be admitted to the hospital. But for successful treatment, patients must want to change and must have family and friends to help them.

People with more serious anorexia, six months or more with the disorder, need care in a special hospital unit for people with anorexia and bulimia. Treatment involves changing the person's eating habits but patients often need counselling for a year or more. Such a long period is understandable because patient's feeling about himself must be changed. Some patients are helped by taking medicine that makes them feel less depressed. These medicines are prescribed by a doctor and are used along with counselling. The best thing here is that anorexia can be cured completely, although it takes a long time.

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