Some people have an unhealthy relationship with food and unrealistic or harmful thoughts about body image. Anorexia nervosa is one example of disordered eating. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “The lifetime prevalence of anorexia nervosa in adults was 0.6%.” Women have a higher risk of developing the disorder with a “Lifetime prevalence . . . three times higher among females (0.9%) than males (0.3%).” Exclusive Hawaii Rehab treats primary and secondary eating disorders (EDs), including anorexia nervosa. The clinical team uses an individualized holistic approach to help clients develop a healthier relationship with food, eating, and body image.

What Is Anorexia Nervosa?

EDs affect how people eat and what they choose to consume. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder where people lose more weight than is considered healthy for their age and height.” Often, individuals with anorexia nervosa have a fear of gaining weight even if they are severely under an average or healthy weight. Individuals with anorexia nervosa may have a distorted view of their body and an unrealistic self-image. In some cases, people with disordered eating may have co-occurring body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD is a disorder characterized by an obsession with perceived flaws in body image.

Risk Factors for Disordered Eating

Younger women have a much higher risk of developing anorexia nervosa. However, anyone can experience anorexia nervosa regardless of age or gender.

Some of the primary risk factors for anorexia nervosa include:

  • A higher-than-average body mass index (BMI) during childhood
  • Trauma related to body image, eating, or weight
  • Childhood neglect or abuse
  • Social or family pressure to present a specific image
  • History of substance abuse or mental health disorders

Individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ have a higher risk of developing eating disorders. According to Current Opinion in Psychiatry, “Lifetime prevalence for anorexia nervosa (1.7%), bulimia nervosa (1.3%), and binge-eating disorder (2.2%) diagnoses are higher among sexual minority adults compared to cisgender heterosexual adults in the US.”

Symptoms and Side Effects of Anorexia Nervosa

People react to severe diet changes differently depending on age, gender, genetics, and general health. The side effects and symptoms of anorexia nervosa vary and exist along a spectrum from mild to severe. In many cases, the side effects are cumulative if the disorder remains untreated.

Some common physical, psychological, and behavioral side effects of anorexia nervosa include:

  • Subcutaneous fat tissue
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Bradycardia
  • Menstrual dysfunction
  • Hair loss
  • Hypothermia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Mood swings
  • Unusual irritability

According to the McGill Journal of Medicine, “Medical complications resulting from semistarvation and overexercising affect virtually every organ system.”

Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

Friends and family are often unaware a loved one struggles with disordered eating. The side effects accumulate gradually, and people may try to hide or mask their symptoms.

Some of the warning signs of anorexia nervosa include:

  • Excuses to avoid completing meals
  • Skipping meals
  • Only eating specific foods
  • Obsessively calorie counting
  • Strict rituals surrounding food, eating, weight gain, weight loss, or body image

Everyone has a unique relationship with food and body image. The factors affecting how they see themselves are influenced by past trauma, internalized stigmas, and internal or external pressures. Treatment programs for EDs help clients identify the root cause of disordered eating and replace maladaptive coping mechanisms with healthy alternatives. Recognizing the warning signs makes it easier for individuals and their loved ones to know when to seek professional treatment.

Treatment Options at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

The clinical team at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab uses integrative and trauma-informed care to ensure clients receive the care they need to recover from the effects of anorexia nervosa and any co-occurring conditions. Therapy and treatment services at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab include:

  • Naturopathic medicine
  • Psychotherapy
  • Nutritional coaching
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Experiential therapy
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)

Our team also provides holistic alternative therapies to reduce stress and increase the effectiveness of evidence-based therapies. Some of our holistic services include:

  • Yoga
  • Breathwork
  • Meditation
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Energy healing
  • Essential oils
  • Mindfulness
  • Sound bath therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Art therapy

Clinicians at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab are licensed to provide primary eating disorder treatment. Every treatment plan is fully personalized to the preferences and needs of the individual.

How to Help a Loved One With Anorexia Nervosa

Family and friends must sometimes intervene and encourage loved ones experiencing EDs to get the help they need. The dedicated mental health experts at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab provide intervention and support to families who believe a loved one may have anorexia nervosa.

Families help their loved ones by doing the following:

  • Providing nonjudgmental emotional support
  • Educating themselves on the realities of disordered eating, including potential causes, risk factors, symptoms, and treatments
  • Providing practical support to ensure they have the resources and time to attend treatment

Exclusive Hawaii Rehab works with families to ensure their loved ones receive the treatment they need to heal. Our clinicians do not force clients to engage in strict eating schedules. Instead, we use psychotherapy, intuitive eating, and nutritional education to help clients create a healthier relationship with food and their body image. The care team uses comprehensive natural medicine and therapies to help clients gain confidence in managing their health after treatment.