When actress Brittany Murphy passed away at the end of 2009, many wondered if her death could have been prevented had she sought treatment for anorexia. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by extremely low body weight, distorted body image and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia severely limit their food intake in the hopes of lowering the number on the scale. Anorexics tend to become dangerously underweight and malnourished. Despite this, individuals with anorexia continuously want to lose MORE weight. Their distorted body image perceptions cause them to believe that they're overweight, DESPITE what the mirror and scale say. Because anorexics essentially starve themselves, the disease becomes more dangerous the longer it continues. Physically, anorexia leads to yellowed skin, bruising, bloating, thinning hair, and tooth decay. In women, the condition often causes the cessation of periods, as well as infertility. Even more alarming, anorexia can lead to kidney stones, or kidney failure as well as heart problems ranging from anemia to cardiac arrest. Without treatment, a high percentage of people with an eating disorder like anorexia will DIE from one of these complications. This is what many speculate happened to Murphy, who was very underweight at the time of her death at 32. This percentage drops when a sufferer seeks treatment! And that's exactly what celebrities like Mary Kate Olsen, Kate Beckinsale, and Victoria Beckham did when anorexia threatened THEIR lives. The first goal of anorexia treatment is to address any serious physical health issues like dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, or heart problems. Then, it's important to get the person back to an appropriate weight. For individuals 25-percent below of their healthy body weight this involves between two to six months of treatment in an inpatient program. For those with non-life threatening anorexia, though, treatment can occur on an outpatient basis. Regardless of WHERE it happens, ongoing treatment for anorexia focuses on three goals: to take control of one's eating habits, to learn emotional self-care and respect, and to develop trust in the people who are trying to help. To achieve these goals, a team of health care professionals will work with a person suffering from anorexia. A dietician will help an individual gain a solid understanding of good nutrition and healthy eating. Generally, the dietician will also develop meal plans that include enough calories to help a sufferer gain weight. Meanwhile, a mental health professional will teach a person with anorexia to treat both food and body image differently. Some therapists do this through COGNITIVE therapy, exploring the unhealthy THOUGHTS underlying the disorder, while others prefer BEHAVIORAL therapy, where goal setting, relaxation exercises, and other healthy BEHAVIORS are taught in place of destructive ones. Family therapy is another method that is ESPECIALLY helpful for teens and children with anorexia. It's important to understand that while there is no medication to treat anorexia explicitly, that antidepressants may be prescribed to patients suffering from clinical depression in addition to their eating disorder. Like Beckinsale, Olsen, and Beckham, many people who receive anorexia treatment make full recoveries, though therapy and medical care may be an ongoing process for a lifetime. Regardless, treatment help ensures that anorexia does not take lives! So, PLEASE see a doctor immediately if you or someone you love is struggling with the disorder.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012