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News

Forcing anorexics to eat could be permanent cure

University Of Chicago : 28 September, 2004  (Technical Article)
There's a promising new treatment for young people who are starving themselves: Make them eat. As obvious as this might sound, it runs counter to the traditional approach to treating anorexia, in which therapists try to treat the underlying mental disorder, leaving parents largely uninvolved.
'Be relentless and persistent and consistent in requesting your child to eat,' advises Daniel le Grange, director of the University of Chicago Eating Disorders Clinic and co-editor of an anorexia treatment manual. 'You have to be relentless because the illness is relentless.'

*Anorexia nervosa: An extreme fear of fat and preoccupation with thinness, dieting, food, fat and calories. Though underweight, a patient still feels fat. Some patients diet and exercise excessively; others make themselves vomit or abuse laxatives or diuretics.

*Psychological consequences: Depression, anxiety.

*Physical consequences: Fainting, fatigue, muscle loss, weakness. Bone mineral loss, which could lead to osteoporosis. Fine thin hair all over the body. Chemical imbalances that can cause kidney failure, heart attack and unbalanced blood sugar. Dry skin and hair. Low blood pressure, which can cause irregular heartbeat. Low iron, leading to fatigue, weakened immune system and heart palpitations. Loss of menstrual cycle. Infertility. Liver damage. Death.

*Warning signs: Dramatic weight loss; refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories (such as not eating carbohydrates); withdrawal from friends and activities; denial of hunger; food rituals such as eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing or rearranging food on plate; keeping to excessive exercise schedule despite bad weather, fatigue, illness or injury.

*Statistics: About 90 percent to 95 percent of anorexics are girls or women. Between 1 percent and 2 percent of American women are anorexic. Anorexia is among the most fatal mental disorders; between 5 percent and 20 percent of severe anorexics will die from the disease.
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