Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental health condition that can affect people of all ages. Despite the growing recognition that anorexia nervosa can strike in later years or resurface after a successful recovery, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa most often develop during the adolescent years. Likewise, although young men develop anorexia nervosa, young women are more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder.
The condition is considered very serious as it has one of the highest death rates of any mental health disorder. This makes anorexia nervosa in adolescence a difficult issue for families to manage and makes finding the best treatment an important first step. Luckily, with the help of a strong support system and comprehensive treatment, long-term anorexia recovery is possible. Keep reading to learn more about the condition, its causes, and what treatment options are available.
What Is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder characterized by an attempt to control one"s body weight and shape by restricting the number of calories consumed each day. People with anorexia nervosa often become obsessed with calories and may also spend much of their time focusing on dieting. Because people with anorexia nervosa tend to eat so little, they tend to lose weight rapidly and have difficulty restoring weight without extensive treatment. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa are also often associated with malnutrition. This can result from a long-term restriction of calories and vital nutrients.
If left untreated, malnutrition can cause serious complications in every major organ system in the body. Over time, these complications can result in chronic fatigue, muscle damage, dental health issues, abnormal heart rhythms, gastrointestinal problems, and more. Anorexia nervosa in adolescence can present with a variety of different signs and symptoms, depending on the severity of the condition.
Some of the most common symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:
A low body mass index based on an individual"s age, height, and stature
Amenorrhea (loss of the menstruation cycle, yellowing skin, brittle hair, and nails)
Obsession with dieting and exercise
Lanugo (a condition where soft, fine hairs begin to grow all over the body and face)
Preoccupation with food, recipes, and cooking. People with anorexia nervosa often cook elaborate meals for others without eating themselves
Excessive exercise even in events of illness, inclement weather, etc.
Food rituals such as eating foods in certain orders, cutting all foods into tiny pieces, refusing to eat around others
Pronounced body dissatisfaction or lack of recognition of their body weight (even when severely underweight, people with anorexia nervosa perceive themselves as overweight or "fat")
Feeling uncomfortable at meals or when presented with food
Wearing baggy clothes (to hide the body"s shape)
Always feeling cold
Anxiety, depression, and insomnia