Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a serious psychiatric condition that boasts among the highest mortality rate of any other psychological disorder. Typically anorexia nervosa begins in adolescence (age 14-18). Diagnoses are nine to ten times more common in females than in males with less than one percent actually having the illness. Among those suffering from anorexia nervosa, there is a ten percent mortality rate, of which half of the deaths result from medical complications associated with starvation.

Symptoms are typically marked by an individual’s refusal to maintain a body weight at or above what is minimally normal for his/her age and height. An intense fear of weight gain—stemming from an undue influence of bodyweight/shape on self-evaluation—often leads to a deterioration of self-esteem, as the elusive self-defined target weight continues to plummet over the course of illness. For many individuals with anorexia nervosa, emaciation is a result of severe weight loss; however, young children with the disorder may simply stop gaining normal amounts of weight as they grow.

Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

  • a state of starvation
  • an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
  • extreme restriction of food intake
  • strict rules regarding what food types are allowed and which are forbidden
  • compulsive calorie and/or fat gram counting
  • distortions in self-image of weight and shape
  • obsessive preoccupations with food that include rituals about food preparation, as well as when, where, and how food is eaten
  • excessive exercise

A subtype of anorexia nervosa is marked by episodes of foregoing stringent self-control and binge eating. Self-imposed repercussions may include self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives and diuretics.

Physiological complications of anorexia nervosa, although frequently reversible (with appropriate intervention), often lead to hospitalization and can be fatal. These include:

  • growth retardation (among children)
  • cardiac and kidney dysfunction
  • gastrointestinal difficulties
  • loss of menstrual periods and infertility
  • osteoporosis (bone density abnormalities)
  • dry skin and hair loss
  • dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
  • dental erosion
  • fine hair growth on face and body
  • constipation and abdominal pain
  • cold intolerance

Psychological problems, including depression and anxiety, are often found in individuals who are underweight and can manifest in a variety of ways such as social withdrawal, irritability, and insomnia.

Effective interventions for anorexia nervosa include cognitive behavioral therapy and family-based treatment.The outcome of treatment for anorexia nervosa varies considerably. For some, a single course of treatment is effective, while other recovery paths are punctuated by shifts from weight gain and recovery to weight loss and relapse.

Contact Us

For more information or to make an appointment:
Tel: 212-659-8724
Fax: 212-849-2561

1425 Madison Ave. (corner or 98th St. and Madison Ave.)
ICAHN Building, Floor 6, Room 32
New York, NY 10029