What is Anorexia Nervosa?
The definition of anorexia nervosa can take many different forms depending on whom you ask. To doctors, anorexia is a mental illness eating disorder characterized by dramatic weight loss through self-starvation. To an individual suffering from anorexia, the definition takes a much deeper, more complex form. To those living with it, anorexia is a very powerful mental disease that both suffocates a healthy life perspective as well as liberates the mind from tumultuous anxiety and emotional hardship. Regardless of how it is defined, anorexia is a severe, unforgiving disorder that merits comprehensive healing to treat from all angles.
Early diagnosis and treatment of anorexia are crucial to preventing permanent damage to the body’s vital systems. With proper treatment, anorexia patients can regain their physical and emotional strength, achieve long-term recovery, and lead happy, productive lives. Left untreated, anorexia can be fatal.
If you suspect that you or someone you care about may be suffering from anorexia, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Some anorexia patients need, at a minimum, a combination of medical treatment, nutritional counseling, and variety of therapies. People who are severely underweight or have other related medical problems might require an initial hospital stay and intensive treatment before addressing the underlying conditions. Our broad goals for anorexia patients include restoring the patient to a healthy weight, establishing healthy eating habits, and addressing the psychological, emotional and other factors that contributed to the disorder.
Rosewood has more than a decade of experience understanding and treating people with even the most severe forms of anorexia. We take a holistic, gentle, non-judgmental approach to helping every patient overcome anorexia and the underlying issues that contribute to it.
Rosewood Uses an Individualized 5-Goal Process to Treat Anorexia
Our approach at Rosewood is always to personalize each patient’s treatment plan in ways that respond to their individual needs. Our overarching goals for each patient’s anorexia recovery program focus on a common set of imperatives that each patient arrives at in their own unique way. These include:
- Ensure the patient is medically stabilized, at a weight level that’s medically appropriate; provide any necessary detoxification under careful medical supervision
- Develop a comprehensive treatment plan with input from our multidisciplinary team as well as the patient and family members.
- Work with the patient to detect and deal with any psychiatric illness and psychological challenges associated with anorexia or co-occurring disorder(s).
- Focus on behaviors and thinking processes that impede progress toward lasting recovery.
- Proactively prepare each patient with comprehensive aftercare plans that reduce the chance of relapse.
Treatment for Anorexia
Rosewood accepts patients at any point in their recovery journey. As the client’s recovery evolves, so will his or her personal treatment program.
The first priority in anorexia treatment is addressing and resolving any serious health issues, including malnourishment, heart issues, depression, as well as addiction and other co-occurring disorders. We offer acute-care inpatient services, including medically supervised detox if necessary, to stabilize the patient.
One of our first priorities when you arrive at Rosewood for treatment is to have you meet with one of our Registered Dietitians (RD) one-on-one. All members of our nutrition staff have at least a Master’s-level degree in nutrition with experience in eating disorders. Additionally, our lead dietitian is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian and a Board Certified Specialist in Eating Disorders. Your meeting with the RD helps us customize a nutrition program specifically for you. We’ll seek to evaluate your nutritional needs, assess your unique history and relationship with food, understand the progression of your eating disorder behaviors, learn about any medical complications, dietary allergies and intolerances we need to know about to personalize your meal plan. With this information, the RD will design a customized meal plan for and with you—one you’ll enjoy while you’re with us at Rosewood and long after you complete your treatment.
As part of each patient’s multidisciplinary team at Rosewood, a therapist will work with the patient in individual and group settings to help identify and replace any negative thoughts with healthier and less distorted beliefs about themselves and their relationship with food. We also offer a wide range of experiential therapies that help patients heal and grow. These proven therapeutic techniques give patients a chance to deal with tough emotions, stress, insecurities, and relationship problems in a productive way. Therapists will also help patients get past their fears of gaining weight. Each patient’s individual treatment plan also contains a strong relapse prevention component.
Levels of Care for Anorexia Treatment
At Rosewood, our patients enter treatment at the appropriate level of care that is required for their specific situation. This determination is generally based on medical complications, acuity of the eating disorder and results of the patient’s evaluations. As patients move along the path of recovery, they can step-down among the levels of care within our comprehensive services:
- Inpatient Treatment
- Residential Treatment
- Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
- Intensive Outpatient (IOP)
- Extended Day Treatment
- Transitional Living
Rosewood Takes An Individualized Approach To Treating The Whole Person
Anorexia recovery at each beautiful Rosewood facility focuses on treating the whole person within an individualized, collaborative framework. Clients, multidisciplinary professionals, family members and referring professionals work as a team toward long-term recovery. Each client’s anorexia recovery program at Rosewood involves multiple modalities across five key components:
- Medical stabilization, weight restoration, detox
- Identify & address psychological challenges
- Identify & address psychiatric illnesses
- Reduce or eliminate destructive thoughts & behaviors
- Create & implement a strong relapse prevention plan
Who Is Mainly Affected by Anorexia?
Statistically, anorexia nervosa affects 0.5-1% of the population, with almost 90% being women. Teenagers and young adults between ages 12 and 25 comprise almost 95% of all anorexia sufferers. Though more common among youth, anorexia can affect people of all ages and can even be a recurring illness throughout one’s life. Although the exact cause of anorexia development is unknown, researchers believe it to be a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.
What Are The Symptoms Of Anorexia?
Anorexia nervosa is a complex mental illness that causes individuals to restrict their food intake due to an irrational fear of eating that can develop from a combination of internal and external influences. Because the nature of the disease tends to be private and controlled, it can sometimes be difficult to observe the symptoms of anorexia nervosa in a close friend or family member. The most noticeable symptoms of anorexia can be seen in an individual’s physical appearance and behavior patterns.
Because the body is in a state of starvation, it is denied essential nutrients and supplements it needs to function normally. As a result, the body is forced to slow its operations in order to conserve energy. It is in this slowing down process that the body undergoes several negative physical side effects and health complications. Most of the physical symptoms associated with anorexia nervosa are characterized by dramatic weight loss and overall weakness that affects the entire body. Due to a lack of nutrients and hydration, hair and nails quickly become dry, weak and brittle. The skin, too, becomes dry, yellow and more susceptible to bruising and discoloration. Anorexia nervosa can even cause lanugo, which is the growth of fine hairs all over the body and face in an effort to maintain body heat. In some extreme cases of anorexia nervosa, individuals can develop anemia, a slowed heart rate, kidney failure, severely low blood pressure, and loss in bone density. For females, anorexia nervosa can cause several complications with pregnancy including low birth weight and miscarriage. For males, it can cause decreased testosterone.
Individuals who are victim to anorexia nervosa live with anxiety when it comes to their eating rituals and body image. Although a very complex disease, anorexia nervosa typically derives from a combination of biological and environmental factors that severely affect an individual’s self-image in a negative way. This poor self-esteem causes those living with anorexia to constantly worry about their diet and exercise regimes to gain control of emotions and decrease stress levels. Anorexia is typically a very private and sensitive matter that is purposefully hidden from friends and family members. Other behavioral symptoms include:
- Obsession with tracking calories, fat and sugar
- Lying about food intake
- Preoccupation with cooking food for others, reading food books, or preparing meals and eating very little
- Engaging in secret food rituals that could involve chewing food and spitting it out, using the same plate for food, or cutting food in a meticulous way
- Dieting or compulsive exercise regimens despite already being thin
- Severe mood swings
- Overall feelings of stress, anxiety and depression
What Are The Causes Of Anorexia?
The exact cause of anorexia is difficult to identify, because it usually involves a merging of internal and external influences. Although a complex disease, experts believe that the causes of anorexia nervosa are attributed to a combination of genetics, personality, and environmental factors.
Research shows that individuals with anorexia nervosa may be biologically predisposed to develop the illness. In fact, a person will be up to twenty times more likely to develop anorexia if another family member has developed anorexia, especially a first-degree relative. The biological similarity between family members that contributes to anorexia nervosa development lies in the chemistry of the brain. Individuals who develop anorexia typically have very high levels of cortisol in their brains, which is passed on in genetic makeup. Cortisol is the hormone that is highly related to anxiety and stress. The cortisol chemical imbalance in the brain explains why people with anorexia typically possess similar character traits like perfectionism, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and low self-worth. The biological causes of anorexia are still under investigation.
Aside from the biological roots of anorexia, researchers believe there are psychological and emotional causes that contribute to the development of anorexia nervosa, as well. Individuals who develop anorexia are inclined to have similar personality traits that can contribute to the illness, likely due to the presence of high levels of cortisol in the brain. People who suffer from anorexia tend to be perfectionists with exceedingly high standards in all areas of life. These high expectations can easily lead to feelings of self-criticism and low self-esteem when standards are not met. Psychologically, individuals living with anorexia sometimes view their eating habits as a routine that can be controlled, giving them satisfaction and temporary relief from anxiety.
Another very influential and controversial cause of anorexia development comes from environmental factors. The most obvious environmental cause originates from our Western culture that glorifies and objectifies thin or muscular bodies in magazines, commercials, movies and other forms of media. Not so surprisingly, of those suffering from anorexia nervosa, 90 – 95% are women. Although the image of female beauty by cultural standards changes all the time, bodily thinness is a physical trait that media has adorned for many decades. Although this standard of beauty is unhealthy and unrealistic for most to achieve, young women can turn to anorexia to try to attain the slim figure that is so frequently glamorized by media. It is commonly debated that another very powerful external cause of anorexia development is the influence of family and friends. Peer pressure is a very dominant force in everyone’s life, young and old. As kids, we are conditioned to seek validation and reward from those close in our life to learn how to behave. When family and social pressures become too dominant in an individual’s life, they can often lend themselves to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like anorexia.
Is Anorexia A Problem For You Or Someone You Love?
Find out and take action. Rosewood offers proven treatment programs that work. Here are some next steps:
- Take our free online anorexia assessment in complete confidence. One of our trained specialists will call you back promptly with results.
- Call us now at (844)334-7879. Compassionate staff is available 24/7 to answer your questions, in complete confidence, without pressure.