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by Scholten A

(Anorexia Nervosa)



Anorexia is an eating disorder. It occurs when a person's obsession with diet and exercise leads to extreme weight loss. The disorder is considered if a person refuses to maintain a body weight at or above 85% of their ideal body weight. It can be fatal.


The goal of treatment is to get you return you to a healthy weight and to help you maintain that weight. A healthy weight is above 85% of your ideal weight. To achieve this, your intake of calories is gradually increased. This can be accomplished through a number of interventions, including the following:

Nutritional Consultation

A dietitian may be consulted to help you learn more about the components of a healthy diet. The dietician will also talk to you about reasonable weight goals and calorie goals.


Therapy can help address harmful thought patterns, improve eating behavior, and increase self-esteem. There are many different types of therapy. Work with your doctor and therapists to determine which therapy may be best for you. You may use more than one therapy or try different therapies before you find one that works best for you. Some therapy options include:
  • Cognitive behavioral therapists—To help you develop a healthier and more realistic self-image. The therapist will help you find new ways to think about your body and your diet.
  • Interpersonal therapy—To help you understand and cope with concerns about your relationships.
  • Family therapy—Families often play a role in eating disorders. Many people cannot recover unless their families are involved in the changes. All families need to understand the disorder to provide the appropriate support.


In some cases, people with anorexia benefit from a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication. In particular, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used. Used alone, antidepressant therapy is not an effective treatment for anorexia.

Addressing Nutritional Status and Loss of Bone Density

Medications and supplements may include:
  • Vitamins and minerals to maintain adequate nutrition
  • Hormone replacement to resume periods and prevent bone loss


Hospitalization may be necessary if:
  • Weight is more than 25% below ideal body weight
  • There are signs of serious physical or emotional deterioration


National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

National Eating Disorders Association



Canadian Mental Health Association

National Eating Disorder Information Center



Anorexia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated February 20, 2013. Accessed July 22, 2013.

Anorexia nervosa fact sheet. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: Updated July 16, 2012. Accessed July 22, 2013.

Casper RC. How useful are pharmacological treatments in eating disorders? Psychopharmacol Bulletin. 2002;36:88-104.


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