2% of mainly females will develop anorexia nervosa between the ages of 15 and 20, of whom approximately 25% will develop an entrenched anorexia. The signs to look out for, whether you are male or female, are that you spend hours exercising excessively, you are taking in few calories, you are feverishly trying to maintain control of your body, and you experience intense, obsessional thoughts about food and weight. If this matches you, then it is very likely that you are becoming entrenched in an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is largely about control and it can be life-threatening. The more you focus on food and weight, the less rational your thoughts are.
Severe and enduring anorexia nervosa can become a challenging condition and treatment, including the talking therapies, are not always very effective. As a psychiatric condition, it is most successfully treated during the first few years of its course before patterns become entrenched, fixed and habitual. Ultimately if left untreated, hospitalisation may be necessary. In-patient treatment of this nature sometimes results in painfully slow weight gain, agonising hours spent in the dining room, desperately trying to cope with compulsive anorexic thoughts and emotions, (including suicidal ones), and frequently deeply-rooted ambivalence towards treatment.
The potential effects of starvation on the brain may be key in new innovative treatment methods. Recent research using neuro-imaging reveals clues that parts of the brain may be stimulated to bring about recovery, such as the limbic system, which is linked with reward processing and other areas of the brain dealing with body image perception and also which determine the way that we sense internal body states, like hunger or pain. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), using an electrical stimulation technique is in use experimentally and is undergoing trial in the UK. This may be helpful in resetting the brain areas that control eating patterns and decision making processes, resulting in a greater chance of being able to access a psychological therapy. This treatment could potentially be lifesaving and prevent early deaths.
If you are suffering from anorexia or a similar eating disorder such as bulimia, or are worried that you, a friend or relative may have an irregular eating pattern or may be developing an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to seek some professional help and advice before the problem progresses further. You can hear women share their experiences about binge eating problems by clicking here.
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