Anorexia Nervosa



March 8, 2013

The brain, is an electrochemical machine, that guides everything we do. Sometimes it makes us overeat, or eat the wrong foods, while other times it tell us to stop eating. If the condition is part of a mental illness, the person is sometimes programmed for anorexia nervosa.

Today people are consumed with the types of foods they eat and how they are prepared, as part of the never-ending journey to heal their issues and be healthy in body and mind.

People, especially women, often ask, "Do I look fat?" In the quest to look like the role models in media, people often take things to extremes. One example is Anorexia Nervosa - an eating disorder associated with starvation that results in physical complications. It is a serious mental illness with a high incidence of comorbidity (the presence of one or more disorders or diseases in addition to a primary disease or disorder) - and similarly has high mortality rates associated with serious psychiatric disorders.




The term Anorexia Nervosa (AN) was established in 1873 by Sir William Gull, one of Queen Victoria's personal physicians. While the term "anorexia nervosa" literally means "neurotic loss of appetite", the literal meaning of the term is somewhat misleading. Many anorexics do enjoy eating and have certainly not lost their appetites as the term "loss of appetite" is normally understood; it is better to regard anorexia nervosa as a self-punitive addiction to fasting, rather than a literal loss of appetite.

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by immoderate food restriction and irrational fear of gaining weight, as well as a distorted body self-perception. It typically involves excessive weight loss and is usually found more in females than in males. Due to the fear of gaining weight, people with this disorder restrict the amount of food they consume.

This restriction of food intake causes metabolic and hormonal disorders. Outside of medical literature, the terms anorexia nervosa and anorexia are often used interchangeably; however, anorexia is simply a medical term for lack of appetite, and people with anorexia nervosa do not in fact, lose their appetites. Anorexia nervosa has many complicated implications and may be thought of as a lifelong illness that may never be truly cured, but only managed over time. Patients suffering from Anorexia nervosa may experience dizziness, headaches, drowsiness and a lack of energy.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by low body weight, inappropriate eating habits, obsession with having a thin figure, and the fear of gaining weight. It is often coupled with a distorted self image which may be maintained by various cognitive biases that alter how the affected individual evaluates and thinks about her or his body, food and eating. Those suffering from anorexia often view themselves as "too fat" even if they are already underweight.They may practice repetitive weighing, measuring, and mirror gazing, alongside other obsessive actions to make sure they are still thin, a common practice known as "body checking".

Anorexia nervosa most often has its onset in adolescence and is more prevalent among adolescent females than adolescent males.However, more recent studies show the onset age has decreased from an average of 13 to 17 years of age to 9 to 12. While it can affect men and women of any age, race, and socioeconomic and cultural background, anorexia nervosa occurs in ten times more females than males.

People with anorexia nervosa continue to feel hunger, but they deny themselves all but very small quantities of food. The average caloric intake of a person with anorexia nervosa is 600–800 calories per day, but extreme cases of complete self-starvation are known.

People suffering from anorexia have extremely high levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone that signals a physiological desire for food) in their blood. These levels suggest that their bodies are trying to desperately switch the hunger aspect on; however, that hunger call is being suppressed, ignored, or overridden. Nevertheless, one small single-blind study found that intravenous administration of ghrelin to anorexia nervosa patients increased food intake by 12–36% over the trial period.


Relationship to autism

Some research suggest a relationship between anorexia nervosa and autism. A large-scale longitudinal study into teenage-onset anorexia nervosa conducted in Sweden confirmed that 23% of people with a long-standing eating disorder are on the autism spectrum. These patients tend to have a worse outcomes, but may benefit from the combined use of behavioral and pharmacological therapies tailored to ameliorate autism rather than anorexia nervosa per se.

Other studies, most notably research conducted at the Maudsley Hospital, UK, suggest that autistic traits are common in people with anorexia nervosa. Shared traits include -- poor executive function, autism quotient score, central coherence, theory of mind, cognitive-behavioral flexibility, emotion regulation and understanding facial expressions.


Anorexia nervosa   Wikipedia




In the News ...


Deep brain stimulation 'helps in severe anorexia nervosa'   BBC - March 8, 2013
Scientists have raised the prospect that deep brain stimulation could help people suffering from severe anorexia nervosa. In the small Canadian study three people were able to gain weight and had improvements in their overall mood after undergoing the procedure. The researchers say larger trials are now needed to show whether this therapy could provide a last resort for people with difficult-to-treat anorexia. Deep brain stimulation - which involves implanting electrodes into the brain - has previously been used for people with Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and obsessive compulsive disorder. his is the first time researchers have implanted the device into brains of people with such severe forms of anorexia. They treated six women, aged between 24-57, for whom most conventional therapy had failed. The researchers chose to implant the electrodes in an area of the brain which influences how people regulate their mood and anxiety. They then switched on the device to deliver continuous electrical stimulation over the nine months of the study.




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