Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by a distorted image of one's own body as being too fat, an abnormally low body weight and extreme efforts to lose weight.

Overview

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by a distorted image of one's own body as being too fat, an abnormally low body weight and extreme efforts to lose weight. This leads to the absence of periods and various other physical problems. Causes include social pressure and traumatic experiences, for example. Those affected are advised to obtain specialist help.

Symptoms

General

  • Gender: ♀ > ♂ (10:1)
  • Disorder peaks between the ages of 15 and 25
  • 1.2 % of female teenagers in Switzerland are affected

Symptoms

  • Body dysmorphic disorder: distorted image of one's own body and sense of self-worth (body is seen as too fat, regardless of actual body weight)
  • Low body weight: body weight is at least 15% below the expected weight or the BMI (body mass index) is less than 17.5
  • Weight loss caused intentionally
    • Refusal to eat, sometimes vomiting after eating (see also bulimia)
    • Excessive physical activity, misuse of medication
  • Hormonal disturbances (absence of periods, loss of libido)
  • Personality structure
    • Patients are usually ambitious, perfectionist and very performance-driven
    • Unhealthy obsession with food and body weight
    • Disease is hidden and denied (feelings of shame)
    • Often accompanied by psychiatric disorders: depression, addiction, fears/compulsions

Consequences (list is not exhaustive)

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Genetic factors
  • Activation of reward system in the brain by fasting (addiction-like gratification)
  • Sometimes traumatic experiences
  • Impaired conflict processing (e.g. hunger as an instrument of power or punishment)
  • Social pressure (ideals of beauty, performance pressure, peer pressure)
  • Problems with maturing into a woman, rejection of own femininity

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Physical examination
  • Blood test
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG), if necessary
Possible therapies
  • Outpatient approach (BMI > 15, understanding of disease, good family support)
  • Inpatient approach (BMI < 15, life is in danger, no improvement as outpatient, etc.)
  • Psychotherapy (also for family members, if necessary)
  • Nutritional therapy and advice

What can I do myself?

  • Accept help from professionals (family members and patients)
  • Promote a stable personality structure and a healthy sense of self
  • Develop different strategies for solving problems
  • Learn to resolve conflicts and handle disappointments
  • Join a self-help group (can provide valuable support)
  • Develop/promote a joyful relationship with food

When to see a doctor?

Further information

Selbsthilfe Schweiz (Self-Help Support Switzerland)
www.selbsthilfeschweiz.ch

Arbeitsgemeinschaft Ess-Störungen AES (Association for Eating Disorders)
www.aes.ch

Experten-Netzwerk-Essstörungen Schweiz (Expert Network Eating Disorders Switzerland)
www.netzwerk-essstörungen.ch

BMI calculator of Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz (Health Promotion Switzerland)
www.gesundheitsförderung.ch

Synonyms

anorexia nervosa, anorexia, eating disorder, psychogenic anorexia

Health insurance premiums at a glance

Calculate premium

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

CSS Insurance – your health partner

Being healthy, getting well or living with illness: as your health partner, CSS Insurance is by your side on your journey through life.

Well looked