Research based interventions anorexia nervosa



Anorexia Nervosa refers to a type of eating disorder that is accompanied by an extreme fear of gaining weight and a distorted image of the ideal body weight and self-image (Eli & Ulijaszek, 2013). Approximately 0.9% of women in the United States struggle with Anorexia Nervosa at some point in their life (Stewart & Overdrive Inc, 2014). People suffering from Anorexia Nervosa are usually fixated on being thin, and so they can go to extreme lengths to get the perfect thin figure. That is why they exercise unhealthy and abnormal eating behaviors. Anorexia Nervosa can also be called anorexia which means lack of appetite or starving one’s self (Stewart & Overdrive Inc, 2014). These actions may affect other areas of their lives negatively. This paper attempts to discuss the available research-based interventions to treat Anorexia Nervosa.

The Criteria Used To Diagnose Anorexia Nervosa Using the DSM-5

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5) provides clinicians with the criteria to follow to be able to identify an eating disorder correctly. According to DSM-5, a person needs to fulfill some criteria to be diagnosed with anorexia (Eli & Ulijaszek, 2013).

An individual who severely restricts the amount of food he or she eats might be suffering from Anorexia Nervosa (Eli & Ulijaszek, 2013). When someone continuously eats less than the amount of food that his needs to perform various functions, they tend to have very low body weight compared to what someone their age and sex should be having (Eli & Ulijaszek, 2013).

A person battling Anorexia Nervosa has an intense fear of getting fat or adding weight (Eli & Ulijaszek, 2013). Therefore, such a person may look for all ways to stop them from gaining weight regardless of whether or not they are already underweight.

An individual with Anorexia Nervosa is not contented with their body weight or shape (Eli & Ulijaszek, 2013). That is why they push themselves to lose more and more weight every day no matter the consequences. These people do not understand how dangerous their actions are regarding being underweight.

Ladies who have already started experiencing menstrual flow and are suffering from Anorexia Nervosa can fail to have their periods for three consecutive menstrual cycles or more (Stewart & Overdrive Inc, 2014). This is of course if the missed periods are not as a result of being pregnant.

Similarities and Differences between Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder where the person involved fears gaining weight, and so they avoid eating (Emmett, 2014). Bulimia Nervosa, on the other hand, is an eating disorder where the person concerned engage in binging or overeating and then proceeds to purge to avoid gaining weight (Emmett, 2014). These two psychological eating disorders are similar in some ways and different in others.

The fear of gaining weight drives both Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa (Emmett, 2014). People suffering from these disorders start out with dieting to avoid becoming obese. Their fixation with getting thin, having the perfect appearance and struggle with anxiety and depression drives them to engage in the unhealthy eating habits they do (Emmett, 2014). Substance abuse may be a part of these disorders whereby individuals start taking excess diet pills. Those suffering from Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa believe they are fat regardless of how they look and that is why they go extreme lengths to cut down the weight.

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are different in the sense that those with Bulimia Nervosa worry about what other people think of them while compared to those with Anorexia Nervosa (Emmett, 2014). Individuals struggling with Bulimia Nervosa are always looking for people’s approval, they want to be viewed as attractive and pay more attention to having intimate relationships. Therefore, they are typically more sexually experienced in comparison to individuals with Anorexia Nervosa.

Persons with Bulimia Nervosa have less obsessive qualities tendencies about restricting their diet compared to those with Anorexia Nervosa (Emmett, 2014). People with Anorexia Nervosa are very rigid about their calorie intake, and they will do anything including starve themselves just to avoid taking in more calories than they plan.

Research Studies on Anorexia Nervosa Using the Research Analysis

The National Eating Disorders Screening Program carried out a screening initiative in 2000 for high school students living in America with the aim of detecting Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. The screening involved questions on eating attitudes, vomiting, engaging in binge eating and excessive exercising to cut weight. The results showed that approximately 15% and 4% representing girls and boys respectively had a possible eating disorder (Emmett, 2014). 25% and 11% of girls and boys respectively had severe eating disorders symptoms that needed clinical evaluation (Emmett, 2014).

A study was carried out in the UK to explore the various ways in which people with a history of eating disorders perceived anti-obesity campaigns. There were 8 participants, all women between the ages of 19 to 57 (Catling & Malson, 2012). Five of these women had anorexia nervosa, two were fighting bulimia nervosa, and the remaining person had EDNOS. After reading the various anti-obesity campaigns, the participants said that although the ads had some positive features, they said that the campaigns demonized fat people (Catling & Malson, 2012). Therefore, the campaigns could contribute to more eating disorders from its viewers.

A study was carried out to find out if people with anorexia nervosa have a better ability to know the fat content that exists in foods. There were 50 participants; 25 had anorexia nervosa, and 25 did not have anorexia nervosa (Saffrey, Novakovic & Wade, 2014). After numerous trials, the researchers concluded that people with anorexia nervosa do not have a greater ability to detect the taste of fat compared to those without the disorder (Saffrey, Novakovic & Wade, 2014).

Most Effective Treatments and Interventions for Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa requires many types of treatment to address the various characteristics and effects associated with it. These treatments are usually broken into three; Medical care, healthy weight gain, and psychotherapy.

If an individual has reached a critical stage of the disorder where his life is in danger, then the first thing is usually taking them to a hospital emergency room to monitor their dehydration levels, psychiatric issues, and rhythm disturbance and electrolyte imbalances (Emmett, 2014). Such a person can even start feeding through tubes before they are well enough to eat on their own.

When an individual with anorexia nervosa is not in any health danger, then the doctors can get him started on healthily gaining weight. A psychologist, dietician, and various mental health practitioners can take the individual through the journey of having a healthy weight (Emmett, 2014). The role of the dietitian is to guide the person on the healthy habits of eating, give them a meal plan that is suitable for them and tells them about the calorie intake they need to achieve their weight goals.

Two types of psychotherapy are effective in the treatment of anorexia nervosa: family-based therapy and individual therapy (Emmett, 2014). Family-based therapy is the only therapy that has been confirmed to work with children and teenagers. This kind of therapy involves the individual and his parents talking to a therapist together about the disorder, how it has affected them and how to treat it (Emmett, 2014). Children and young adults cannot make good eating decisions especially when they are battling with this disorder. That is why the parents get involved so they can know what to do and make sure that the child feeds as he should gain weight. This can continue until the child or teenager is mature enough and in a better position to make good choices regarding their health.

Various forms of therapy fall under individual therapy for anorexia nervosa. Cognitive behavioral therapy is for adults, and it helps them to develop good eating patterns and behaviors meant to help them gain weight (Emmett, 2014). This therapy also helps them to change the negative beliefs they had about themselves and thoughts regarding restrictive eating. A therapy treatment known as Maudsley Anorexia Nervosa Treatment for Adults (MANTRA) help individuals to figure out the reason for their disorder (Emmett, 2014). In this way, individuals can change their behaviors that led to the disorder.

There are no medications that have been proven to work for anorexia nervosa, and so doctors do not prescribe any (Stewart & Overdrive Inc, 2014). However, one can be given antidepressants or various psychiatric drugs if they have mental disorders like anxiety and depression.


People suffering from anorexia engage in severe restriction of the quantity of food they take in. They watch their calorie intake almost obsessively, and if they happen to take more calories than they wanted to, they can induce vomiting all in an attempt to stay thin. When these behaviors continue for some time, they can become dangerous to one’s life. Therefore, people should avoid engaging in these practices and the affected parties should seek help.

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  1. Catling, L., & Malson, H. (2012). Feeding a fear of fatness? A preliminary investigation of how women with a history of eating disorders view ‘anti-obesity ‘health promotion campaigns. Psychology of Women Section Review14(1).
  2. Eli, K., & Ulijaszek, S. J. (2013). Anorexia nervosa.
  3. Emmett, S. W. (2014). Theory and treatment of anorexia nervosa and bulimia: Biomedical, sociocultural, and psychological perspectives.
  4. Saffrey, R., Novakovic, B., & Wade, T. D. (2014). Assessing global and gene-specific DNA methylation in anorexia nervosa: a pilot study. International Journal of Eating Disorders47(2), 206-210.
  5. Stewart, G. B., & Overdrive Inc. (2014). Anorexia. S.I.: Cherry Lake Publishing.
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