Anorexia Nervosa – The Disease Of Industrialized Nations

Anorexia nervosa is primarily a disease that occurs in the industrialized world, and was once a disease mainly of upper class young Caucasian females between the age of 15-19, although now it can and does affect those of any race, culture or socioeconomic group, it is primarily a disease of females, occurring at a rate of more than 90% in females, but there are also now male anorexic in the group. Those females that become anorexic have a distorted view of beauty equating beauty with being thin.

Anorexia nervosa is also a disease that results in abnormal nutrition, those that have the disease have an intense fear of weight gain and thus limit their intake of food depriving them of needed nutrition that can keep them healthy and eventually starving them to death.

Even when these individuals are already underweight they may continue to diet and over exercise thus keeping them underweight.


The intentions of those that become anorexic are generally good intentions at the beginning, namely to diet and lose weight, but the diet never ends. It then becomes evident that there are deep seated psychological at work, with most cases beginning around the onset of puberty, a traumatic time in the life of most girls. Those that succumb to the disorder are also rigid, perfectionist and suffer from all or nothing thinking with no middle ground. These young women also have intense self-discipline, exercise to the extreme, have a distorted body image, suffer from obsessive compulsive disorders and have low self-esteem.

Warning Signs Of Anorexia Nervosa

Warning signs may not be recognized right away, but these signs include:

• Significant weight loss

• Continuing to diet when they are already thin

• Perception of themselves as fat even after losing weight

• A fear of gaining weight

• In females a cessation of the monthly menstrual period

• A preoccupation with counting calories, food, nutrition, and/or cooking

• A preference for eating in isolation

• Compulsive exercising

• Bingeing and purging of consumed food

Progression of the disease leads to disillusionment, hostility and withdrawal. They may begin to induce vomiting or to use diuretics, emetics, enemas, and laxatives. If allowed to continue these behaviors can lead to death.

Treatment of the Disorder

There is really no cure for the disorder, although those with the disorder may be treated successfully and return to a normal weight with good nutrition, the disease can return and those with the disorder must be careful their entire lives and work hard to prevent the disease from returning. These individuals will still prefer to have a low weight and to be preoccupied with food to some extent.

Those with anorexia nervosa may also suffer from bulimia thus complicating the disease. There are those with the disease that also suffer from major depression and sometimes substance abuse, and have poor social skills, with some ultimately starving to death or committing suicide.

Those with the disease are often treated with a combination of hospitalization, pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, with their best chance of treatment being at an eating disorders clinic.

Hospitalization can make it possible to return the individual to a healthy nutritional status by preventing dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and starvation which can otherwise lead to health complications and death. Stabilizing the patient nutritionally is primary before psychotherapy can even begin. Once psychotherapy begins a combination of treatments to address the underlying issues can include a combination of behavior therapy, individual psychotherapy, patient education, family education and family therapy, it is generally found that there are underlying family perception toward the person with the disease that must be addressed.

On the nutritional side, dietitians will work in conjunction with the psychotherapist to reshape the individual’s perception to a more realistic one, and to reshape how they choose foods and their behaviors toward food. The patient is also encouraged to join a support to help get them through the process and to help them stay on a positive track.

Nutritional intervention is the first key step to alleviating the disease and returning the individual to a healthy lifestyle as part of a holistic approach to return the person to good health.

For more information about anorexia nervosa click on the link to

Bulimia Nervosa - Disorder of Nutrition Involving Bingeing and Purging
Binge Eating Disorder - Compulsive Overeating

For other information on nutrition some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

Nutrition Eating Disorders
Exercise and Vitamins
Nutrition and Exercise
Cooking and Nutrition
Nutrients In Food
Energy From Food
Water and Nutrition
Dietary Minerals
Cooking Recipes
Cooking Easy Recipes Home