Anorexia nervosa is an illness that, with early and sophisticated care, can usually be fully cured. However, if anorexia is too far advanced, it can lead to chronic illness or even death. For this reason, it is important to treat early -- ideally as it is developing and before it becomes full-blown.
Anorexia nervosa is a common disorder, affecting over 1% of teenaged girls each year. Times of peak risk are around age 12-13 and around age 17. In addition, anorexia can affect boys and men, as well as adult women.
Weight loss is usually the most obvious sign, although younger children may just fail to keep gaining weight as they get taller. Treatments should be adapted to the needs of each age (younger children, high school students, young adults, women in earlier or later life). In addition, there are often special needs to consider, such as school, athletics, pregnancy, parenting, and others.
Studies have shown that there is a strong genetic predisposition to anorexia. Life stresses can contribute to the illness, but the key factor is often the developmental demands of adolescence
The temperament most at risk for anorexia is, ironically, full of desirable qualities—often high achieving, sensitive, responsible, and so on. Curing the illness is especially gratifying because these young women often go on to achieve great success.
The medical complications of anorexia can be complex and urgent, and require sophisticated management to protect the heart, bones, and future fertility. In younger children, growth and height are often at risk. Once anorexia and weight loss begin, the brain is affected in ways that change mood and distort thinking, even though school performance often remains high.
Psychologically, anorexia may be associated with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, low self-esteem, and sometimes self-harming behaviors such as cutting. While these difficulties are identified early in treatment, the most useful work to resolve them usually comes after they have achieved some weight gain.
Anorexia treatments continue to be developed and improved for patients of all ages and situations. At Wilkins Center, our team is on the leading edge of patient care, which helps us provide the best chance for an excellent outcome.