Thursday, June 29, 2006

Into the DSM-IV - Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by the following symptomatic clues:

  • An inability to maintain a healthy or minimum body weight
  • A distorted body image
  • An intense fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight
  • An excessive emphasis on weight
  • The denial of the seriousness of their condition
  • In females an additional characteristic is the cessation of the menstrual cycle.
Anorexa Nervosa can be further classified as a Restricting type, which involves volutary starvation, Binge/Purging (including the use of laxatives or vomit induction). The onset of Anorexa Nervosa typically occurs in adolescence and affects about 1% of the female population.

Risk Factors
  • Having a history of dieting (diets do not cause, instead all eating disorders originate through dieting attempts
  • Being female (95% of diagnoses are in females)
  • Having a parent in the family system who is overly concerned with weight issues
  • Being a prepubscent or adolescent female (due to the incongruence of actual and ideal female body types portrayed in cultural situations)
  • Biological predispostion.
  • Psychological characteristics: distorted thinking, low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, perfectionism, and fear of rejection
  • A history of trauma, sexual or physcial abuse
  • Socio-cultural factors such as media or peer influences.
Protective Factors

  • Psychological characteristics: high self-esteem, internal locus of control, high self-efficacy, mature defense mechanisms and coping strategies
  • Personality characteristics: easy temperment, ability to make and maintain friendships, optimism
  • Secure attachment to a parent
  • Good parental adjustment. Parents with healthy attitudes towards weight and food can pass these along to children
  • Socio-cultural factors: low levels of stress, high levels of support, minimal exposure to media images.


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