anorexia nervosa treatment sydney

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by low body weight and body image dissatisfaction. Individuals with anorexia nervosa often have an intense fear of weight gain and may restrict their food or exercise compulsively.

According to the DSM-5, the following criteria are required for a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa.

  1. Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health.
  2. Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
  3. Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.

However, it is important to recognise that even if an individual does not meet all of these criteria, and regardless of weight, a serious eating disorder that requires treatment can still be present. This is often referred to as ‘atypical anorexia nervosa’. However, this term can be unhelpful, as research has found that the level of distress felt by individuals, the medical impacts and importance of seeking treatment are similar in atypical anorexia.

Warning signs 

  • Preoccupation with body shape, weight and/or appearance
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Preoccupation with food or food related activities
  • Negative or distorted body image, perceiving self to be fat when at a healthy weight or underweight
  • Low self-esteem (e.g. guilt, self-criticism, worthlessness)
  • Rigid thinking (‘black and white’, ‘good and bad’ foods)
  • Heightened anxiety around meal times
  • Heightened sensitivity to comments or criticism about body shape, weight, appearance, eating or exercise habits
  • Constant or repetitive dieting, restrictive or rigid eating patterns
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise
  • Changes in clothing style (e.g. wearing baggy clothes, wearing a jumper regardless of weather)
  • Obsessive rituals around food
  • Changes in food preferences
  • Frequent avoidance of eating meals, making excuses not to eat
  • Social withdrawal or avoidance of social situations involving food
  • Repetitive or obsessive body-checking behaviours

Medical risks

Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental illness, with several medical risks that require regular monitoring. As the body is not getting required nutrients, lots of processes in the body slow down.

Medical complications can include:

  • Anaemia
  • Compromised immune system
  • Intestinal problems
  • Loss or disturbance of menstruation in females
  • Increased risk of infertility in men and women
  • Kidney failure
  • Osteoporosis (a condition that leads to bones becoming fragile and easily fractured)
  • Heart problems, including cardiac failure
anorexia nervosa treatment

What next?

Recovery from anorexia nervosa is possible, whether it is a recent or long-term concern. The path to recovery can be challenging and it is important to have the right team of health professionals around you.

If there are any warning signs of an eating disorder, we recommend making an appointment with your GP as soon as possible for a medical check-up.

Information on this page was collected from the below sources. If you would like more information, we recommend visiting these helpful sites.

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